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 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...