Sunday, 17 April 2016

Things I've Learned So Far About Becoming An Activist

It's been awhile since I've posted here and that is something I'm sorry I let happen.

It's not because I haven't had things to say (if anything, the need to speak has quadrupled!). But my life got busier, and seemingly complicated, and I could only express myself in micro bursts (thank you, Twitter!). I just didn't have the time and energy to write lengthily blog articles, and design a corresponding comic, and all that.

But I always felt sad that I had 'given up on' my Going Green blog.

Luckily, I have realized that I don't have to keep to my original layout. I've discovered flexibility, people! If microblogging and doodling on scrap pieces of paper is what I need to do, then by God, let's do it!

So here's it is. The space where I can go longer than 140 characters...but not too much longer (???), because there's a lot on the go and a lot of ideas, and lots happening and action to be taken, and so let's jump now to a bullet list, the handy dandy format that allows one to hop skip and jump across the rocks and make it from one side of the stream to the other in no time. Here we go....


Things I've Learned So Far About Becoming an Activist

  • Politeness and civility matter
  • Compassion and empathy matter
  • Change can happen locally and it can have a huge ripple outwards effect 
  • So Find out more what's going on locally
  • Check out your local political people: who are they and what do they stand for?
  • Find people like you in your area and meet them in person
  • Find out what activist groups in your area are doing
  • Determine if there is a central purpose or action you could all join together upon?
  • Aim to build unity and focus among groups: build strength and purpose in numbers 
  • Aim to socialize and eat food together and get to know each other as people!
  • Connecting with others is important
  • Opening up to others is important 
  • Having a sense of humor is important 
  • Self care is also important
  • Moments of distraction will happen and that's ok
  • Moments of despair will happen and that's ok
  • Moments of feeling ineffectual will happen and that's ok
  • Other life moments might dominate for a while and that's ok
  • Moments of guilt at not doing or being enough will happen and that's ok
  • You do not need to apologize for having an opinion
  • You do not need anyone else's permission to have an opinion 
  • You can revise and further develop your opinion as new information arises 
  • Keep honing your intuition and your internal bull s$$t meter
  • Use your strengths: whatever you are good at can be brought to the table 
  • Keep alert for allies...there's more out there than you may at first realize! 
  • Transformation is possible, on all sorts of levels 
  • Keep at it, keep doing something, big or small, individual or collective, consistently or in little bursts, imperfectly or efficiently, just do it
Put your hope on again, like a sweater.


Sunday, 8 November 2015

Step 14 in Going Green: Dealing with Activism Brain Freeze



You know how it is when you want to make an important point but it comes out garbled?

But then an hour later you've perfected what you wanted to say (in your mind) only the moment has passed and now no one is around to hear your perfection?

Yeah, I hate that!

When you take up environmental causes, knowing when and how and what to speak suddenly becomes its own art form. 

When: You have to know when to pick your moments. Not everyone is receptive to what you have to say! 

How: Come across too strong? You sound like you're selling used cars!

What: Locating all the necessary facts and examples from your brain  requires the precision skill of a brain surgeon!

Speaking up about a damaged and polluted Earth is a huge responsibility. 

Of course we want to get it right!

But one cannot aim for perfection. The best one can aim for is a connection.

Even if I don't get it all right the first time around, I'm sure my concern and care and worry about the future health of our planet shines through. You can't deny my impassioned plea, even if all I do is sputter.

Sometimes its not about words anyway. 

Feelings can jump between two people. Body language, tone of voice. These alone should tell you:

I'm concerned about this...and you should be too. 

And in the meantime, the more I talk, the more my words will catch up with me...so that what I know in my mind matches what I feel in my heart...and what I finally say with my mouth!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Step 13 in Going Green: Maintaining #climatehope


So recently, one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded hit the coast of Mexico.

I saw its image from the space station. It looks like a scene in a disaster movie.



So real life is looking like CGI from a doomsday flick.

And astronauts are peering out the window at the earth and seeing things that make them think 'holy crap, that's not good'.

Doesn't it make you wonder: when is enough ENOUGH?

Are we just supposed to accept this as a 'new normal'?

If you've been paying attention, record breaking extreme weather events have been happening all over the $%#^-ing place.

Crazy 'historic' rainfall in the Carolinas!
'Record breaking', rampaging fires in Washington State!
'Mind boggling' heat waves in the Middle East!

I went to the Climate Reality Leadership conference in July and only a few months later, I've a ton of NEW extreme weather examples to put into the slide show.

This should be worrying people.

It worries the heck out of me.

I don't know why each time I hear of a new extreme weather event, I'm surprised.

Knowing the science of climate change as I do, I should know better.

Of course there are going to be massive super storms, heat waves, forest fires... along with a whole score of other 'symptoms' of an over-warmed planet.

Well, duh! That's the way it works, dummy!

Every incident is at once an impetus to act and a moment of mourning.

Here's a typical inner conversation:
  1. What?! Another extreme weather event? 
  2. That's horrible! 
  3. Think of all the living creatures affected!
  4. How could we let it get this far? 
  5. Why do we do this to ourselves? 
  6. When will we get our act together?
  7. We must take action! 
  8. Switch to renewables! 
  9. End the burning of fossil fuels!
  10. Yay! Lots of people are taking action!
  11. What?! Another extreme weather event?

And so on...

It can be a challenge to keep a steady emotional course.

It can be a challenge emotionally to stay attuned to what is going on, to bear witness, to give voice...and for those who are directly impacted, to endure.

One almost needs a warrior spirit to keep hope when faced with the constant evidence of our mis-direction, our mis-use, our environmental abuse which we are all complicit in.

Bad news: we created this mess. 
Good news: we can fix it. 

Granted, it might take considerable collective effort to fix it.

But that doesn't mean it can't be fixed.

I guess as long as we keep aligning with #climatehope, all is not lost.

Fellow humans, join me in maintaining your #climatehope!

Because, what's the alternative, really?

I really do not want to see the hashtag #climatedespair trending any time soon.

Let's. Just. Not. Go. There. Please.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Step 12 in Going Green: Make Art to Communicate the Need for Climate Action Now


I met this wonderful artist when I was at the Climate Reality Conference in Toronto this past July.

Her name is Suendrini Goonesekara and she is an up-cycle textile artist. She makes AMAZING landscapes out of recycled textiles.

But this September she is applying her skill towards a similarly AMAZING climate change art installation that will be displayed at the NewWaves Music Festival held at the Sandbanks Provincial Park in Ontario.

This installation is going to inspire those who see it. It is interactive & thought provoking. There's a great description of it on the festival website. I highly encourage you to read up on it, and GO to the festival if you can. If not, the write up helps you to envision her creation.

HERE IS THE WRITE UP.

Reading this, you can see that not only is it going to be an evocative piece of art...it is also an invitation to passerbys to explore the implications of climate change...and to realize the solutions.

Those with a creative bent definitely have a roll to play in the name of Climate Action. 

Suendrini has kindly offered to include mention of my blog/comic on her art instillation. A wee bit of artist-writer collaboration...which is just SO COOL.

Both of us are using our respective skills to draw attention to climate change and the need for action now.

There are so many impacts to consider...extreme weather events, changing ecologies, loss of habitat and animal species...

Health risks. 

Have you looked up the health implications of climate change? Food and waters systems will be impacted.

Just, you know, the things we need to live on.

But there are also unsettling disease implications. 

Al Gore talked about this at the Conference. He noted how with the increased warmth, disease vectors change. Mosquitos, ticks, viruses--these guys find this new warmth sooooo delicious. They'll go farther afield, live long and prosper...bringing negative health impacts along with them...

The ticks made the news this season, didn't they? Because they'd increased their range.

Why was everyone so surprised? That's Climate Change, folks!


And JELLYFISH. Jellyfish are going to be really happy, too. 

I realize that jellyfish don't carry disease, per sea, and I actually think they can be kinda pretty, floating as they do all gelatinous and dreamy...

But I don't think we want the oceans to be filled with more jellyfish swarms. Ick.

I'm not a visual artist, but I'd like to propose someone starts putting jellyfish images all over the place, Banksy-style. With signs that say: The Jellyfish Era.

Because that's where we seem to be headed: The Jellyfish Era. It seems an appropriate warning. Kind of dystopian/sci fi. The Rise of the Jellyfish! The Jellyfish Swarm!

Like the Borg from Star Trek, only...without the mind control...and gooier.

Coming to clog an essential nuclear power plant water pipe near you!

Or perhaps it will be: jellyfish for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

In any case, fellow creatives, it's time to use your talents to get the word out. Write poems! Write stories! Write blogs! Make art! Put it on the web! Take it to the festivals!

The Road to Paris is coming up. World Leaders will meet Nov-Dec to discuss Climate Change.

Artists are also participating in ARTCOP21. In Paris, there will be a city wide climate festival of art!

You don't have to sign up to join in on this idea.

The entire fall season needs to be a Climate festival! This festival of united hearts and minds can take place anywhere!

GO MAKE ART!

This is the time for climate change art awareness!

SO GO MAKE ART RIGHT NOW!


PS. Since publishing this blog post I have since found out that Suendrini's submission to ARTCOP21 has been accepted!

So now her art installation will be a part of the global art movement, centred around the Paris Climate Change talks.

And I get to vicariously experience this through her...and a little bit of me, via my comics, gets to join in! SO EXCITING!




Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Step 11 in Going Green: Deal with Your 'Green Guilt'

We've created our societies in such a way that 'going green' is 'alternative'. It is 'other'. It is not the standard.

That means to go green, you must go against the grain.

Of course, we are all starting to realize the inherent MADNESS of our current way of doing things.

I just read recently that, collectively, in the world, we have used up all of our yearly resources for 2015.  We are taking more than we can replenish. We are in 'ecological' debt.

This was the actual headline on the Weather Channel: We've Used up Earth's 2015 Resources in Less Than 8 Months!

This was on the Weather Channel, a mainstream media outlet, not some so-called hippy-dippy-Earth-lovin' (I use those words with respect) blog site (like mine, hee hee).

So you can see just by that, that environmental consciousness is becoming less 'other' and more standard.

But it still is far from mainstream.

Solar panels are still a novelty. My car still runs on gas. So does my furnace.

We may recycle, but the things we buy typically come with WAY more packaging then is necessary. Set in plastic, wrapped in plastic, sometimes even stuck in a plastic bag (though that is changing, most people around here bring their own cloth bags, at least to the grocery store).

I didn't even think to question these things until a few months ago. Lots of people still don't question the inherent 'rightness' of gas furnaces and Shell stations.

But once you've realized the high ecological price that comes with those 'conveniences', every time you use them...you will feel 'green guilt'.

There is an overwhelming sense of responsibility that comes with an awareness of our ecological mess.

A need to do the right thing. 

Doing the 'wrong thing', even though it may be necessary at the moment because there aren't a lot of options (or any option) other wise, still feels 'wrong'.

I say embrace this sense of wrongness! Embrace the guilt! It is what will motivate you to gravitate towards other choices and step outside the circle of convenience, as you are able.

It isn't a comfortable feeling.

But it is useful. 

Soon, as more and more people make similar gestures, that which is inconvenient will become convenient. That which is 'alternative' will become mainstream.

The shift will happen. It is happening.

Those who aren't paying attention will wake up in five years to find solar panels on top of Home Depots and on airports...wait, I think that's happening now!

There is still power in individual actions. I know we live in a cynical age, but I do believe that inherent power still exists.

Individual + individual + individual + individual = a crowd.

Crowd + crowd + crowd = country.

Country + country + country = world.

Societies are created by humans. They can be changed by humans.

We are an ingenious species, awash with creative power. 

We can change things, if we want to. We can also make it easier for others to change, too.

By being the change we wish to see...

(I've been waiting for a blog post to reference that quote!)

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Step 10 in Going Green: Write a Letter to the Editor!

Today I wrote a Letter To The Editor about Climate Change...and sent it off to 4 different newspapers.

When you become, as I did, a Climate Reality Leader, writing a letter to the newspaper is a suggested form of activism.

As a writer, I'm amazed I hadn't thought of this before. I'm a writer. Of course I can write a letter communicating the need for climate action NOW!

Naturally, I had to see this as a challenge to my writing abilities.

Could I write succinctly? (150 words, 250 words). Could I reference the relevancy of the Pope's recent Encyclical, President Obama recent climate change plan, and Al Gore's Climate Reality conference? Could I appeal to voters of the upcoming national election in Canada? Could I come across as rational, persuasive, even, perhaps, a little funny? (For this is a serious topic seriously lacking in levity and perhaps the seriousness puts people off?)

Could I use eye catching words like 'zombie hoards'?

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking ZOMBIE HOARDS do not have anything to do with climate change. And of course, technically, you are right.

When it comes to the effects of climate change, zombie hoards are not on the list.

Let me repeat this just so I'm clear: climate change does NOT create zombies.

However, if you consider the amount of cultural and social anxiety that currently centres on zombies--the TV shoes, movies, books, and blogs that fret and worry about the sudden onset of the zombie apocalypse, how we would survive such an apocalypse, etc...

Doesn't it make you wonder?

Are we sublimating our panic, fear and worry about a REAL, scientifically proven catastrophe currently sitting on our doorstep (climate change) by pouring our attention into a hypothetical, fictional scenario about a zombie-based catastrophe?

It's easier to deal with pretend worlds, after all. Easier to plan our pretend zombie survival kit then to consider the real impacts of climate change, some of which we are experiencing now...like drought, wild fires, super storms, flash floods, and so on.

Is that perhaps why zombies are so popular right now? Climate change anxiety narratives posing as zombie fiction?

Now, I love zombie tales and I would never suggest writers stop writing them.

But I would suggest that perhaps we turn our attention away from The Walking Dead et al for a moment...and face the real crisis on our hands 'dead' on. (Get it? ha ha. Further attempts at 'levity'. I'm trying.)

Otherwise we will all be like that poor group cornered by zombies in the shopping mall, scrambling together a strategy on the fly...

I don't know about you, but I certainly do not want to be scrambling about for a solution after the crap has hit the fan. Especially, when, with some effort and fore thought, we can stop the climate change catastrophe in its tracks right now.  (Namely, stop the fossil fuels, switch to renewal energy).

We don't even have to reach that point of scrambling in a corner.

Plus, we know what usually happens to that group in the shopping mall, don't we?

Just think of that analogy if you're wondering what to do about climate change. What more impetus do you need? Demand climate action now!

By the way, here's the long version of my Letter:

This November, in Paris, world leaders will meet to discuss climate change.

Climate change is a pressing issue. I’m amazed more people aren’t talking about it in their everyday lives, given it could change the world as we know it on so many levels. It is right there with zombie hoards in terms of apocalyptic impact—but, alas, unlike zombies, it is not fictional.

It is a scientific reality, one that is fast becoming ours. Not just for the ‘future generations’. This impacts everyone, world wide, right now.

It’s uncomfortable to consider environmental catastrophe but evidence of climate change related extreme weather events are happening now, all around us, hurting humanity.

The Pope recognized this in his recent Encyclical. President Obama recognized this when he recently debuted his plan to fight climate change. Al Gore presented numerous examples of climate change related devastation at his Climate Reality Leadership Conference I went to this past July in Toronto.

Search the Internet for the science of climate change, you will see for yourself.

The good news? It can be halted. But urgent action is required. We need strong leadership and commitment on all levels of government to stop fossil fuels and switch to renewable energy sources.

Climate change is not going to go away and I’d rather have someone at the helm with a plan, than someone scrambling to create one once it’s too late. We need climate action now.


Consider this when you cast your vote at the upcoming national election. 

Here's hoping one of the paper's publishes it! And doesn't edit it beyond recognition!


Monday, 3 August 2015

Step 9 in Going Green: Make Connections, Use Your Strengths

In the aftermath of the Climate Reality Leadership conference held in Toronto this past July, I have been experiencing a rather dramatic creative renaissance.

I love it when I get a creative flashes. They are extremely satisfying.

I have them in teaching, in writing, and now, in my foray into environmental activism.

Usually, it starts with the mental line: wouldn't it be cool if...

And then an idea comes to me. In a rush. It feels like a rush, too. I get mental goosebumps. I sometimes freeze in motion like a dog picking up a scent. Then I might jump up and down mentally, like a toddler that has to pee...

Often, once the idea takes shape, I will experience a type of 'well, of course'. Like it was something I knew but had forgotten. It feels like it was built into the fabric of the universe and utterly 'meant to be'.

Okay, getting out of the realm of the metaphysical...and into the practical. Here are the ideas that came to me, in order of their appearance...

1. Teachers Connecting to Environmentalists

When I was at the conference, I kept asking people I met: 'would you consider being a guest speaker in my classroom via Skype?" I received enthusiastic yeses to my requests.

But when I got home I realized...this could be so much bigger.

I only spoke to a handful of people. There were 600 attendees at the Toronto conference. Maybe they would like to be a guest in my classroom? Or any classroom?

Maybe other teachers besides myself might like to talk to them?

How can I get them all to meet one another? Wouldn't it be cool if...

  • There was digital space with a list of environmentalists from all walks of life who were interested in connecting digitally with classrooms...
  • Teachers could use this site to find interesting people, 'ordinary' people who are doing extraordinary things...
  • It could have wide application across grades and across curriculum...
  • I could add some lesson plan suggestions on how to facilitate this...

As such, my Eco-Teacher Network idea was born! It is still in the planning phase but my ultimate goal is to create a digital document (website?) that will facilitate this teacher-eco community connection!

2. Environmentalist Connecting to Readers
.
At the Climate Reality conference, there was moment when we all got to share our stories at the table groups, stories about how we came to be interested in environmental action, how we came to be at the conference. (I wrote about these a bit in a previous post).

I got inspired by this. Wouldn't it be cool if...

  • I could interview this diverse group of interesting people and document those moments of 'green awakening'? 
  • How did they become environmentalists? Was there a catalyst? A defining moment?
  • Was there an inner shift that happened inside when they realized the importance of the environment and that action must be taken?

I could turn this into an anthology! 

How inspiring to read about people making changes in their life! It's the very embodiment of what this 'going green' blog is about, just writ larger and wider!

And so my Green Awakenings Anthology idea was born! I'm currently in the process of interviewing and writing up entries! It might be a blog, a book, or both! (Probably a blog, first--so stay tuned!)

The entries don't necessarily have to relate to climate change. I intend for it to reach beyond Climate Reality Leaders. So I am eager to find other 'ordinary people' who are similarly green inspired!

(If this strikes your fancy, and you think you would be a good candidate, please email me: julieajohnson@rogers.com or contact me on Twitter: @julieejohnsonn)


3. Environmentalists Connecting to Viewers

Fast on the heels of the above idea came this:

Wouldn't it be cool if...

  • I could also interview environmentalist live, on the web, on a webcast, and, using my Twitter skills, introduce them to my 1900 followers?

It would be a half hour show, an informal chat between myself and my guest. We could talk about how they came to be interested in the environment, what steps they've taken to 'go green', what environmental action others can take, what specific environmental issues are they concerned about...

Then I would send it out into the internet to inspire others!

And so my weekly Hill of Greens Webcast idea was born!

(Looking for guest speakers! Please let me know if you are interested!)

Sooooo...pretty awesome, eh?

Have you noticed a thread running through all of these?

I am a green match maker! 

Not in a romantic sense, but as in: 'I am an operator at the switch board of ideas'.

I want to take the eco ideas from as many diverse people as possible and connect them to as many diverse people as possible.

What an amazing realization, that:

Sharing and connecting on a personal level is in itself a form of environmental activism!

This caters to my strengths. As a teacher, I am used to facilitating conversation, zeroing in on concepts, bringing them to the fore. As a writer, in the written venue, I do that, too. I know how to edit ideas down to its essence.

I had no idea these particular facets of myself could be put to use this way!

I AM SO EXCITED!

I remember what Al Gore said at the conference.

"We can live lives with an extra layer of meaning"

This is how this feels to me. Like a new layer of myself has been discovered (or, rather, recovered...like it was built into the fabric of the universe and utterly meant to be...I just had to find it...)

Al Gore also said:
I feel that truth force. I want that truth force to flow through me and beyond me and through others and into others...

I spoke with a fellow CR Leader Nan Foster via FB this week about this and she said somethings that really resonated:

The activism all comes from conversation. That authentic connection between people...that is our strength.

I can feel the inspiring power of connection. This is how you counter Climate Change insomnia and the like. By joining up and joining in and just plain joining.

Ok, I just got mental goosebumps again!

PS. The other ideas that I have are creative writing pieces:
-my cli fi mystery, which I started in the Spring
-a graphic novel version of my sitcom idea from this comic: a group of activists, striving to make change...