Climate Change and the Consequences

From all that I’ve read, heard and seen on climate change I’m worried about the legacy being left for my kids. It’s a controversial topic, however, and few clear statements have been definitive enough for me to want to provide to friends, family and others who need to be convinced about this pressing and looming nightmare.
I’ve been a fan of David Suzuki since his Quirks and Quarks days and from The Nature of Things. I’ve read several of his books including his autobiography Metamorphosis. And I’m happy with most of the activism his foundation does (though not all of it).
I was pleased to see David and his foundation just published a very good, short and clear article:

on the lead up to and what we are faced with around this scary issue. I urge you to read it.


A Different Path

Documentary-maker Monteith McCollum chose quite A Different Path when he made this film this year. I found the slower pace refreshing and could appreciate McCollum’s point, that our car-centered lives are moving too fast. It wasn’t that long ago when 50 kilometres an hour was fast and now we all forced to slow down to that speed on City streets. Almost everything is geared to serve car-culture with little room for alternative ways of getting around. Consider this example: in Seattle, which is well known to be ecologically active, there are 40 engineers on the city payroll who work on roads. There is just 1 for sidewalks, bike paths and other alternative forms of transportation. The streets have been made ‘safe’ for cars but not for anyone else. Seniors who don’t drive or who simply want to go for a walk or bike somewhere have been marginalized in their own cities.
In the case of Richard Dyksterhuis in Seattle, who lives on Linden Avenue North, he was feeling that his community has become a transportation corridor with parking lots for home and others for malls and a sea of cars in between. He had to fight to get sidewalks put in so he could walk to buy milk from a store he can see from his home.
In Toronto Michael Lewis Johnson has become an organizer to try to make at least some of the streets safe for people. He is a bicyclist. One unforgettable scene features Michael with some friends biking down the centre of a snowy and slushy street. He steers with one hand and plays Summertime and Silent Night on a trumpet with the other. Beautiful, ironic and funny. Johnson’s sense of humour is highlighted for he feels that the angrier you get about the problems the funnier you have to be to solve them. He dresses up as the ‘Klownen Fuhrer’ and haunts Kensington Market proclaiming how important it is for cars to take over our civilization. He is a hilarious devil’s advocate. And he has to be since , as he puts it, his activism is akin to truing to kill a fire breathing dragon with a thorn from your mother’s garden. He has bravely organized car-free days for busy streets in Toronto and, contrary to what you might imagine, the merchants want him to do it again. Shutting down the streets to car was actually a boon to business.
In Portugal we meet Miguel Camios, an engineer who hates his commute. He can see his work from his home across the water but it takes a great deal of time just to get across the bridge. After hearing about a man in New York who tried kayaking to work he decides to try it and now he gets exercise and still gets to work faster then he did before.
A lively discussion led by local activist Mike Nagy followed the film.
This film hit close to home for me as I commute by bike to work year round. I’ve had to develop a thick skin over the 10 plus years but even so I still feel marginalized trying to share the road with cars, vans and especially buses and transport trucks. At best bicyclers are tolerated but there are those ‘at worse’ times when I’ve been threatened by belligerent road hogs.  Still I have definitely seen an increase in the number of bikers on the road.  That, along with some of the grudging efforts by my local municipality to provide bike lanes and paths, is encouraging.

I Bought a Rainforest

Jacob Andrén and Helena Nygren created an interesting documentary this year based on a simple question. Jacob’s class had raised money back in the 80’s to save a part of the rainforest and he wanted to know what was happening with their plot in Costa Rica over 20 years later. A good question that many of us have asked. We donate money for far flung projects and who knows what happens with it. Jacob did his best to find out.
But first I will disclose my own feelings about buying those acres. At my most cynical I could say this is the developed world using its money to try to preserve forest in the developing world because we’ve learned, through our own experience, that cutting down entire forests is wrong. We now know that this practise has real and serious environmental consequences but, I feel, we are trying to atone for our past foresticidal sins. This may be true but it hasn’t stopped me from buying plots of my own.
OK. Back to Jacob. A lot of these types of development projects are run by volunteers and so the paper trail can easily become cold after decades but Jacob didn’t give up. He traveled to Central America and pursued whatever contacts he could. Telling you if he was successful or not would be giving away the ending and I don’t want to do that. The point of the film was to show some of the realistic issues behind this issue. We are introduced to environmental heroes out there fighting their own government and poachers to preserve forest.
It would be easy to become cynical and discouraged but Jacob doesn’t. This isn’t a documentary that shies from the facts but it manages to keep its spirits up, like Jacob, and have an uplifting and hopeful end.  I would recommend it very much for anyone.
Bill Barrett, a local activist and cofounder of the Plant An Old Growth Forest project here in Guelph spoke after the film and lead an informed discussion about the issues. His hope was that the grassroots organizations that began these campaigns long ago would be reborn because, he’s convinced, they do a great deal of good.  After seeing this film I would agree.