Grief & Climate Change Podcast

Back in September, I had the great pleasure of participating in a phone-in conference as part of an initiative, The World in Which We OccurOur discussion focused on Grief and Climate Change, and I was honoured to share the event with two other amazing individuals, Clive Hamilton and Lori Gruen. The podcast of our discussions is now available.

Grief and Climate Change:

An investigation into the methodologies of approach to ‘climate deniers’ and their reasoning, as well as the flipside of grief: how to psychologically adapt to the repercussions of natural disasters today? This session identifies the psychological response in an era of global warming on both the climate denier side of the equation, as well as victims who have weathered a natural catastrophe and the effects thereafter. What is the mournable body beyond the human? Are non-human entities fellow vulnerable beings capable of our mourning? What kind of concerted political action exists for these beings?

Clive Hamilton is Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra and the author of ‘Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change’.

Ashlee Cunsolo Willox is a Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Healthy Communities and an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Nursing and Indigenous Studies at Cape Breton University in Unama’ki/Cape Breton, focusing on climate change and mental health, Indigenous health and cultural resurgence, and environmental mourning.

Lori Gruen is the William Griffin Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University in Connecticut where she is also Professor of Environmental Studies. She is the co-editor of ‘Ecofeminism: Feminist Intersections with other Animals and the Earth’.

Dialing for Change

This past semester, I had the honour and privilege of teaching 16 amazing first year students through a First Year Seminar course, Cool Heads for a Hot Planet: Canada and Climate Change at the University of Guelph. We spent the semester studying climate change from an interdiscplinary perspective, incorporating science, geography, social impacts, cultural implications, economic effects, and politics. We simulated the Conference of the Parties. We Skyped with my Inuit colleagues from Nunatsiavut, Labrador. We had guest speakers. And we had many, many discussions and debates.

After weeks of grappling with the complexities of a changing climate and environment, as a group, we felt we could no longer sit idly by and simply study. We wanted to do something. Something that would allow us to share our concerns and our fears about climate change, but also our hopes and beliefs in the creative potential of humanity to come together to mitigate, adapt, and move forward. From this desire for citizen action, and believing in the importance of creating dialogue, Robocall Steve for Climate Action was born. Wanting to approach to event with levity and positive energy, we decided to play off the recent ‘Robocall’ scandal (especially since Guelph is the epicentre of it all), and agreed that if politicians can robocall us, then we can robocall them right back: except this time about climate change.

On April 4th, students, staff, and community members gathered in the University of Guelph’s outdoor courtyard to Robocall Steve and share a simple, non-partisan message. With approximately 300 people making phone calls from the courtyard and inside the Robot-shaped call booth, the event was a great success. People were respectful. Joyous. Happy. And proud to be exercising their democratic rights and responsibilities of active citizenry.While politics may have played a role for some, the event itself was about transcending politics, about coming together as citizens who have to share this planet, and who are quickly realizing that many of our fellow human beings are already suffering the negative impacts of climate change.

As a social scientists who has spent the last four years collaboratively researching with Inuit colleagues about the impacts of climate change on health (particularly mental health), I have witnessed the ways in which Canadian Inuit in Canada are experiencing rapid disruptions in their ability to hunt, fish, trap, and travel to cabins: disruptions which affect culture, livelihoods, and health. I have become increasingly uneasy about the often-slow pace of research, and the time it can take for research to translate into policy. The changes are moving much faster, and we can’t seem to keep up. I have also become increasingly uneasy about Canada’s current standing on climate change issues domestically and on a world stage. And have continually felt that we all need to do more. Say more. Act more.

As an instructor, I have always believed in the importance of transcending classroom boundaries, of moving curriculum beyond the walls of the University, of uniting academic learning and knowledge with citizen action. And I saw the proof of this need on April 4th. My students were simply awe-inspiring. Passionate. Motivated. Active. Engaged. Educated. Knowledgeable. And contagious! And throughout it all, never angry, never rude, never disrespectful. Peaceful. Joyous. And this translated to the crowd. Callers said ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘I really appreciate you taking my call’. People were joining together in friendship and community under one goal: to remind politicians that as Canadians — that as humans on this planet — we need something to be done. There is no Planet B.

We need more of this. We need more events and dialogue and phone calls and gatherings and citizen engagement. We need more courses that inspire students to move beyond the classroom wall. We need more students like Afnan Bagader, Vanita Buchoon, Alexandra Buffone, Morgan Dobroshinsky, Emma Genest, Michelle Grover, Jocelyn Keeson, Sukhchan Lail, Kayley Langdon, Neda Mirjabari, Joanna Rees, Shannon Regan, Tyler White, Amanda Wilkins, Hilary Worm, and Melissa Zigler.

Keep the momentum going. Organize your own events. Make your own phone calls. Keep calling with the same message. Share it. Do it for us!

Now it’s your turn…!

Events like this wouldn’t happen without the support of great people. We have been blessed and privileged to work with Abid Virani throughout this entire process, and to have Abid employ his talents as a filmmaker and director for our events. Abid was assisted by Siomon Willox, a grade 11 student at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, and co-op student for Abid’s charity, I Have Hope. We also received great advice and guidance from Geoff Loughton, Gracen Johnson, and Yvonne Su, the students behind Guelph’s successful Vote Mob movement, and in particular, we thank Geoff for the simple yet elegant suggestion of putting ‘robo’ in front of ‘call’.

Robocall Steve for Climate Action!

Students from my first year class on Canada and Climate Change (Cool Heads for a Hot Planet) have spent the semester becoming educated, engaged, and enraged on the state of climate change in Canada and globally, and on Canada’s current stances on climate change.

They decided to start a campaign to ‘robocall’ Stephen Harper to transform their academic learning into some active citizenry (seeing as Guelph is at the epicentre of this scandal). Robocall Steve for Climate Action is scheduled for April 4th, 2012. If you’re in the Guelph area, join us on the University of Guelph campus in Brannion Plaza from 1-2pm.

  • Call Steve from our Robot Booth
  • Sign your name to the ‘I Robocalled Steve for Climate Action’ list of champions (and we’ll mail it to Steve after)
  • Get an ‘I Robocalled Steve’ button to wear with pride
  • At 1:45pm, join in a group call to Steve!

If you’re not in Guelph, don’t worry — we are hoping to spread this campaign across Canada! We need help spreading this far and wide, and hope to inspire people to:

  • Start their own Robocall Steve for Climate Action day on April 4th!
  • Upload a video pledging to call Steve
  • Call Steve at 1-613-992-4211 and share this message:

Hi Steve, this is [insert your name], and I’m calling from [insert your location].
And I have a message for you.
I’m calling to talk about climate change.
It’s real and it’s happening.
And it’s negatively impacting Canadians everywhere.
Something needs to be done, Steve.
There is no Planet B,
We have to live with the decisions you make, Steve.
Make Canada a Climate Leader, not a Climate Loser.
Do it for us.

For more information:
Twitter: @callsteveday

On April 4th, 2012, join us in Robocalling Steve for Climate Action!


Bolivia Set to Pass Historic ‘Law of Mother Earth’ Which Will Grant Nature Equal Rights to Humans

Bolivia Set to Pass Historic ‘Law of Mother Earth’ Which Will Grant Nature Equal Rights to Humans.

An interesting and historic new legislation set to pass in Bolivia that

redifines natural resources as blessings and confers the same rights to nature as to human beings, including: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Perhaps the most controversial point is the right ‘to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecoystems and the local inhabitant communities’.

The Vacuum Salesman

A wonderful, witty, and rather horrifyingly insightful political fiction piece by Margarat Atwood in today’s Globe and Mail.

There’s not much more to say…except don’t buy the Vacuum!

TheStar Another student barred from Conservative Party rally

Well, Harper’s at it again. And this time, it concerns ‘flagging’ my friend and research colleague, Joanna MacDonald, and denying her access to attend a Conservative rally in Guelph, Ontario on Monday. Apparently, Joanna may have been flagged for her environmental leadership on campus, and possibly for standing as a Canada Youth Delegate at the UN Climate Change conferences in 2010 and 2009. Check out Joanna’s story on the front page of the Toronto Star.

TheStar Another student barred from Conservative Party rally.

Sea Ice and Arctic Resources

As Inuit representatives from all over the world gather in Ottawa today for a two-day emergency summit on oil and mineral extraction and business development throughout the Circumpolar regions, data recently released from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) charts the steady decline of sea ice, and adds ‘fuel’ to the race for Arctic resources.

Arctic sea ice extent averaged over January 2011 was 13.55 million square kilometers (5.23 million square miles). This was the lowest January ice extent recorded since satellite records began in 1979. It was 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles) below the record low of 13.60 million square kilometers (5.25 million square miles), set in 2006, and 1.27 million square kilometers (490,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average.

Ice extent in January 2011 remained unusually low in Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait (between southern Baffin Island and Labrador), and Davis Strait (between Baffin Island and Greenland). Normally, these areas freeze over by late November, but this year Hudson Bay did not completely freeze over until mid-January. The Labrador Sea remains largely ice-free.

Air temperatures over much of the Arctic were 2 to 6 degrees Celsius (4 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal in January. Over the eastern Canadian Arctic Archipelago, Baffin Bay/Davis Strait and Labrador Sea, temperatures were at least 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) higher than average. Temperatures were near average over the western Canadian Arctic Archipelago and Scandinavia.

As in December 2010, the warm temperatures in January came from two sources: unfrozen areas of the ocean continued to release heat to the atmosphere, and the wind patterns accompanying the negative phase of the Arctic oscillation brought warm air into the Arctic. Near the end of January the negative Arctic oscillation pattern broke down and turned positive, which usually favors ice growth. It is unclear how long it will remain in a positive mode.

To read more, visit the NSIDC website. Also of interest may be a documentary aired on CBC’s The Current this morning, entitled ‘Breaking the Ice,’ which examines the stance taken by Greenland’s Premier, Kuupik Kleist, on embracing resource development as new terrain opens up in his country.