BE THE CHANGE: THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY

The real problems of our planet are not economic or technical, they are philosophical. The philosophy of unbridled materialism is being challenged by events… Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology toward the organic, the gentle, the elegant and beautiful.

– E.F Schumacher

 

Fran watering the early greens April 1, 2019 - bruce witzel photo

 

Here at our rural cabin the snow’s long gone now. The kale, chard and celery wintered over and is edible for salads here in zone 8 coastal British Columbia. Numerous seedlings are sprouting in trays on windowsills and in cold frames and the greenhouse.  Easter turkey dinner will indeed include greens.

 

Coldframe on April 1, 2019 - bruce witzel photo

 

This winter I passed sixty – the question arose, what direction to take in life? I’ve missed the mark so many times that I’m brought again to that Gandhian saying:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

 

Cabin after Feb16-2019 snowfall B&w - bruce witzel photo

 

PART ONE

 

The British economist E.F. Schumacher (1911-1977) once said,

“We must do what we conceive to be right and not bother our heads or burden our souls with whether we’ll be successful. Because if we don’t do the right thing, we’ll do the wrong thing and we’ll be part of the disease and not part of the cure…”

Fritz Schumacher was calling you and I to examine ourselves in the quest that leads to what Buddhists call “right action”.

Schumacher authored three seminal books in the 1970’s: 1) Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered 2) Good Work, and 3) A Guide for the Perplexed.

 

small-is-beautiful 

He helped form organizations like Practical Action and the Soil Association. They advocate for the development of human scaled and decentralized appropriate use of technology. Today Schumacher’s work is considered a cornerstone of sustainability.

 

Center for New Economics

 

Listen to how Schumacher illustrated within a Christian context the commonly held belief that many people have in ever increasing wealth and economic growth:

“In the beautiful hills of Surrey, where I live, you can go for walks, and even on a Sunday you never meet anybody, though you may hear the distant roar of traffic down to the coast. And the story goes that an economist went there for a Sunday-afternoon walk, and he met none else than God Almighty, which gave him a bit of a shock, and he didn’t know what to say.

He remembered that as a little boy he had been told that what a thousand years to us is but a minute to the Lord. And he asked God “Is this so?” and the Lord said, “Yes, this is quite so.”

By that time he had recovered his composure, and he said to God, “Then perhaps it may also be true that what is a million pounds (or dollars) to us is only a penny for you.” And the Lord said, “Yes, that is quite true.” And he said, “Well, Lord, give me one of those pennies.” The Lord said, “Certainly, my dear lad. I don’t happen to have it on me, but just wait a minute while I fetch it.”

… And so it is with the salvation expected from the growth of GDP  – just wait another minute and we shall be rich and happy. This notion is becoming increasingly questionable.” page 124 – Good Work

 

PART TWO:

Many of you know another person I look to for inspiration is Thomas Merton (1916-1968). His sage wisdom brings me a sober in depth reminder:

“My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. The fruit of my labours is not my own, for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another.  Nor are my failures my own. They may spring from the failure of another, but they are also compensated for by another’s achievement.

Therefore, the meaning of my life is not to be looked for merely in the sum total of my own achievements. It is seen only in the complete integration of my achievements and failures with the achievements and failures of my own generation, my own society and time.”

In short – we’re in this world together.

 

photo of the Himalayas 1968 – also by Thomas Merton

photo of the himalayas by thomas merton

 

Merton and Schumacher were kindred spirits – two gentle giants of their age.

 

Downtown San Francisco – May 23, 2010   b.witzel photo

Downtown San Francisco, May 23-2010 - bruce witzel photo

 

  There are poor societies which have too little; but where is the rich society that says: ‘Halt. We have enough’? –  E.F. Schumacher

 

PART THREE

 

This brings me to the essence of this reflection.

Recently you may have heard about 16 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden. She has helped begin a climate strike movement of students that happens every Friday throughout many cities of the world. Yesterday, April 17,  Greta met Pope Francis briefly saying  to him “Thank you for standing up for the climate and speaking the truth. It means a lot.” The pope smiled back broadly and responded “God bless you, continue to work, continue. Go along, go ahead.”

 

Pope Franics with Greta Thunberg - Catholic press photo

I recommend you listen to Greta speaking here. It is both heart breaking and inspiring to listen to Greta with such desperation and incredible will as she calls for elders to “act your age” in regards to Climate Change.

 

The list of solutions to reduce climate change is large and Greta wants us to act in every way possible and to act now. As Fritz Schumacher reminded us:

“It’s amazing how much theory we can do without when the work actually begins.”

 

Sreen Capture from Solar Industry Association

 

Drawdown 2 Capture

 

The many positive actions we make are unique to our different situations and locale. Small things make a difference too. How about recycling with a local thrift store and Craigs List? Or ride a bicycle and eat less red meat which have much smaller carbon footprints.

Recently I heard that one of the most radical things a person can do in this day and age of climate change is to stay close to home. Simply, rediscover the beauty and wonders of our own back yards.

If we need to visit family who live a distance away or we really want to travel we can buy carbon credits or invest in NGO’s like KIVA. This is a direct action towards creating wellbeing and reducing global Greenhouse Gas Emissions.

 

world-map-co2-emissions-per-capita-by-country

 

 

My friend Jack Anderson is a community leader who helped form Climate Action Powell River. Jack says it’s a time for truth telling – like Greta is doing.

 

Jade (my niece), Bruce (myself) & Jack Anderson at his home in Lund BC Aug. 23, 2013- fran guenette photo

 My niece Jade, myself, and Jack on the right at his beautiful self-built home in Lund

 

Powell River is located on what is known as the Sunshine Coast in the province of British Columbia, Canada. The communities along this coastal band of temperate rainforest are connected by only one highway and a series of ferry boat rides. They have no comprehensive forest fire emergency evacuation plan yet the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires make communities incredibly vulnerable.

 

Front entry of Jack and Mary-Ann's in Lund BC  August 23-2013 - bruce witzel photo

 

Recall the Fort McMurray wildfire and evacuation in Alberta  in 2016 or last years Camp Fire in Paradise, California. A recent article from the financial and media company Bloomberg has the headline that reads “Climate Changed – Now California Wildfires Burn All Year.”

 

Satellite image of 2018 BC wildfires – NASA

nasa-satellite-image-wildfire-smoke-over-b-c-july-31-2017

 

 

Powell River is now part of a growing movement of 440 municipalities in Australia, UK, Canada, USA and Switzerland who have declared a climate emergency. Some people say this is alarmist.

Isn’t climate change alarming?

 

CONCLUSION:

 

As early as 1955 Fritz Schumacher had this foresight:

A civilization built on renewable resources… is superior to one built on non-renewable resources, such as oil, coal, metal, etc. This is because the former can last, while the latter cannot last. The former co-operates with nature, while the latter robs nature. The former bears the sign of life, while the latter bears the sign of death. It is already certain beyond the possibility of doubt that the ’0il-coal-metal-economies’ cannot be anything else but a short abnormality in the history of (hu)mankind – because they are based on non-renewable resources and because, being purely materialistic, they recognise no limits.”

 

 

May peace be with us all

Bruce

 

100 Mega Watt solar installation in Rajasthan – photo compliments of  PV Magazine

Rajasthan_3_100_MW

11 thoughts on “BE THE CHANGE: THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY

  1. You’ve provided so much to think about, Bruce. Actually, more than “think about,” I’d say to truly contemplate. I first went to college in the fall of 1970, at the height of the “zero population” movement with a tremendous focus on sustainable living and conservation trends, and generally not taking more than we need or can replace. I no longer remember the terms that were introduced, but I recall being introduced to “Small is Beautiful” and it’s likely that Schumacher’s teachings generally played a role in setting me on a life path that has always felt more at home in minimizing my “footprint,” even though I didn’t know it as such. I’m closer to 70 than 60, and knowing there’s a lot more sand at the bottom of the hourglass than the top, the urgency to leave my grandchildren a legacy of hope for their future is my constant cry. Once again, so much to think about and you’ve provided some welcome actions. I always look forward to your thoughtful posts.

  2. Bruce, thanks for sharing your inspirational, Holy Week reflections. I’m not yet in a position to adapt your nature-friendly lifestyle, but I’m doing my small part to re-create the beauty and wonder of Nature within the courtyard of the urban, apartment complex where I live.

    • Good urban living often has a low carbon footprint. The nature of living in rural areas requires us to have a big nasty pickup truck, and we even have a 2nd car, though Francis doesn’t drive at all. Your apartment oasis sounds wonderful Rosaliene, and I know you are doing your part towards creating climate justice. Good cheers – Bruce

  3. Too long we have been talking about the climate threat, but not done much to change the state of what is going on. I think Schumacher goes right to the core of the problem. We cannot sustain ever more materialism and our planet at the same time.

    • Schumacher is a personal hero and taught me much….. like that I have found the quality of life has never come from having more things but rather, from the relationships, love and beauty of those and that which is close to me. And living and acting with a creative spirit as you illustrate so well Otto, on your blog, in your writing and photographs. Thanks for your work and example in the world . . . may you have a happy Easter, too.

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