No word has come through yet on who will replace Martin in the high-profile and often contentious role of chief climate negotiator. Martin and the Canadian team in Copenhagen and past UN conferences have received a lot of personal heat for Canada's lacklustre position on climate change.
It will be interesting who the PM chooses to replace Martin - it will certainly set the tone on the Conservative government's approach to climate change and its view on the relevance and effectiveness of the UN negotiations and process.
Friday morning I had the chance to speak with Annie Leonard, the author of the new book "The Story of Stuff - How our obsession with stuff is trashing the planet, our communities and our health - and a vision for change"
Annie's name might sound familiar to those in the environment circle, and even those not in it. Annie was the writer and star of the viral video "The Story of Stuff", focusing on on the effects of human consumption - the video since its creation has reached over 10 million hits worldwide. In the 20-minute video Annie, an activist who spent the past 10 years traveling the globe fighting environmental threats, takes viewers on an eye-opening tour on the real costs of our consumer driven culture. Since the creation of the video, Annie has been named Time's Hero of the Environment of 2008 and was the feature of a front page story in the New York Times.
The book is a follow up and takes the basic concepts of the video and greatly expands it with detailed information on every stage of the consumer process, from extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal, revealing the poor, unsustainable state that our lives have taken in the past couple of decades.
Here are the highlights of my phone conversation with Annie this morning talking about her new book, and her hopes for escaping this consumer culture:
The “Story of Stuff” was video was highly successful – why then the need to write a book?
(Since the video came out) we had gotten 80,000 emails asking for more information and we were thrilled and shocked that so many cared. Trying to answer all those questions, getting thousands of emails a week was exhausting. I also realized this was going to keep happening, it was not a short-term interest.
There is only so much that can go into a little cartoon. As well, a lot of people don’t have access to high-speed internet. In most of the world, and even in huge amounts in North America, people don’t have access to high speed internet to view the video. The kind of change we need is going to require being inclusive and reaching beyond those who can access the internet. A book was a broader, deeper platform that provided more information.
How can our generation, a group that has spent their lives growing up in artificially developed environments, eating artificially developed food, and are disconnected physically and emotionally from nature, develop an instinct love and respect for nature like you have?
It’s hard because my daughter loves the laptop and is constantly plugged in, and you really need to drag them outside. It is incredibly important to be with nature, to really go out into the woods and to do activities like camping. We can’t do as much now-a-days, but it’s important to give (young people) that experience. My time spent in the woods, camping in the summer, overnight trips, those times developed a deep sense of humility within myself.
How do you respond to the naysayers that defend their right to consume, to waste, as they perceive cutting back as essentially hindering their quality of life?
I decide whether they are in the “reachable camp” or “unreachable camp”, whether they are indoctrinated into consumer culture. I tell them to turn the TV a little off, to re-engage in their community. If we can get people to try that, I hope that they find it so delicious, so rewarding, that people want to switch over. For the unreachables, they clearly won’t. We can not get hung up trying to convince the minority. If you look at the data, the vast majority of people are sympathetic about the environment, and want to live in a sustainable, safe, clean planet.
What are your own personal hopes for the future? Can humanity really stop this incessant consumerism and wasteful lifestyle?
I think a growing number of people are fed-up with the Work-Watch-Spend treadmill, and told what to buy and increasingly realizing that its just not that fun. Increasingly people are waking up everywhere I go, all over the country and world, with businesses figuring out how to eliminate toxic chemicals, build their local community more. Everywhere you go, schools are doing more environmental education. But for a lot of people, it just might have to get worse before they realize and wake up.
Can the concepts of your book be introduced to children or is it too complex for them?
When I was making the video, I was not making it for kids. I was thinking, this film isn’t going to be shown in schools. But I literally have gotten feedback from elementary school kids to post-graduate students in economics. The breadth of reach is phenomenal. The book, like the film, contains serious scientific and technical information, fun stories, and tries to be as inclusive as possible. There are a lot of great environmental books out there, a lot of them technical and intellectual with serious language, and sometimes they can serve to intimidate or exclude a lot of people from the conversation. So I hope that with this book it makes a lot of this information more accessible and easier to share.
To learn more about the Story of Stuff Project and to view Annie's other videos on "The Story of Cap and Trade", click here.
To watch the original video, here is the link on YouTube.
I wrote a post a couple of months ago about the new environment movement that seems to be developing among religious circles, connecting the need to protect the planet with religious and spiritual beliefs (Indeed, the United Church of Canada was a strong force at the Copenhagen negotiations).
It looks like the movement is still going strong with groups like the Sikh Council on Religion and Education (SCORE) declaring March 14 as "Sikh Environment Day".
In July 2009, in collaboration with the United Nations, SCORE organized an EcoSikh conclave in New Delhi in which Sikh organizations and leaders declared a five-year plan as a Sikh response and commitment to save the earth against the threat of climate change. The plan was presented to UN's secretary-general Ban Ki Moon at Windsor Castle which hosted an international conference of all religions and climate change.
Part of the plan was the creation of Sikh Environment Day, scheduled for the first time this year on March 14, to coincide with the celebration the 7th Guru, Guru Har Rai Ji who had preached that Sikhs must come to the defense of all that is vulnerable and protect the well-being of plants and animals.
The main organizers are hoping that all major Sikh Gurudwaras will sing hymns with an environmental theme on this day, along with the planting of trees with the community.
Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore has published an excellent op-ed today in the New York Times. In it, he addressed some recent controversies in the scientific community, and the Copenhagen summit, which he declared global leaders "failed to muster anything more than a decision to 'take note' of an intention to act."
For anyone who has been stuck in a
conversation with someone who passionately says something about climate
change that is utterly uninformed, you'll know how nice it is to not
only be able to talk about the science that proves them wrong, but now
you can actually show them research on it right there in the middle of
Thanks to an Australian solar physicist John Cook, you can access via an iPhone app skeptics' arguments, and then get the science-based counter-arguments in the palm of your hand.
When you turn on the app, you can look at the top 10 most used
arguments, or search through three main argument categories - including
'It's not happening', 'It's not us', 'It's not bad'. As you search, you
can pull up a skeptic argument (there are 90 arguments listed in the
app with their rebuttals so far), then a summary of what the science
says. It even includes graphs and links to scientific papers and other
News emerged this week that Yvo de Boer, the United Nations top climate official, is giving up his post this come July.
Yvo, the relentless executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is said to be frustrated over the debacle of the Copenhagen conference which failed to produce binding emission cut controls on greenhouse gases, and understandably so.
“Copenhagen did not provide us with a clear agreement in legal
terms, but the political commitment and sense of direction toward a
low-emissions world are overwhelming,” Boer said, who held the position since 2006.
Yvo's departure certainly comes as a blow to the ongoing climate negotiations under the auspices of the UN. From my own experience at the UN conferences, Yvo was a highly respected figure amongst both country negotiators and members of civil society, and worked tirelessly to bring negotiators to the table to come to an agreement.
“With Boer, the
great steersman of the climate proceedings is abandoning ship,” said
Greenpeace’s head of climate change policy, Martin Kaiser. US Senator
John Kerry, who has been leading negotiations on climate legislation in
Congress, credited de Boer with bringing the world’s major polluters to
the table in Copenhagen and said he was hopeful a final deal was still
possible by the Mexico summit.
“The fanatics, naysayers, and science deniers will not derail the
global community from doing what’s right to secure the future of our
planet, and in that, our commitment has never been stronger,” Kerry
said in a statement.
I almost spit out my coffee this morning as I was reading my copy of Toronto Star over breakfast.
Neatly inserted behind all the usual sections was one called "New Energy Future - The Energy Challenge and Environmental Responsibility". The first headline claimed to provide us with a 'reality check' on climate change, and scattered throughout the section are smiling feel good stories of employees of the tar sands with little myth buster boxes on tar sands production.
The entire section? Sponsored by Shell Canada.
I'm so glad the Star thinks that its okay to distribute oil company propaganda to millions of Canadians as a supplementary section to inform Canadians with reality checks and myth busters about climate change and the oil sands industry.
Remember Star, when you devoted your entire front page on December 1 arguing that the world needs to unite in the face of climate change at the beginning of the Copenhagen conference?
This move for the Star (obviously because Shell was able to provide the $$$) seems highly antithetical, and has made this blogger extremely disappointed.
I wonder if I had enough money, I can buy a section in the Star devoted to arguing to the existence of unicorns?
This was mentioned as a link in my previous post, but I feel it deserves more attention given the way climate skeptics seized on the incident of leaked emails from the University of East Anglia that seemed to suggest that climate scientists at the university were falsifying data and that climate change wasn't really happening - otherwise known by the media-friendly term 'Climategate'.
An inquiry panel was set up earlier in January to look at the allegations against Penn State University climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann relating to the contents of emails stolen from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in London.
Penn State University has concluded that there is no evidence to substantiate the claims made against Dr. Mann.
"While a perception has been created in the weeks after the CRU emails
were made public that Dr. Mann has engaged in the suppression or
falsification of data, there is no credible evidence that he ever did
so, and certainly not while at Penn State," said the inquiry report,
published by the university on Wednesday.
The panel of senior administrators at the university recommended that one of the four allegations made against Dr. Mann ( that Dr. Mann "engaged in, directly or indirectly, any actions that seriously
deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for
proposing, conducting or reporting research or other scholarly
activities") be further investigated.
Mr. Mann released a statement:
"I am very pleased that, after a thorough review, the
independent Penn State committee found no evidence to support any of
the allegations against me.
Three of the four allegations have been dismissed completely.
Even though no evidence to substantiate the fourth allegation was
found, the University administrators thought it best to convene a
separate committee of distinguished scientists to resolve any remaining
questions about academic procedures.
This is very much the vindication I expected since I am confident I have done nothing wrong.
I fully support the additional inquiry which may be the best way
to remove any lingering doubts. I intend to cooperate fully in this
matter – as I have since the beginning of the process."
A recent report released yesterday has found that if fighting climate change was an Olympic sport, the organizing committee for this month's Vancouver Winter Games would have won a bronze medal.
According to the David Suzuki Foundation, the Olympic organizers in Vancouver have done poorly in areas as offsetting carbon emissions despite building energy-efficient sports venues.
When Vancouver won the bid to host the games, it made a series of environmental commitments. The IOC, despite promoting the idea of protecting environment for the games, in fact does very little to make sure local organizers follow-up on their promises.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking at the World Economic Forum on Thursday that Canada won't immediately commit to deep carbon emission reduction targets.
“They simply cannot be reduced by declaring a target and saying they
will be met by power of will, because that isn’t going to happen," Harper said.
The comment quickly drew criticism from other world leaders according to CTV, including the South African President, Spanish Prime Minister and Mexican President.
Mexico will be hosting the next major UN climate summit this December in Cancun. January 31 is the deadline for key nations such as the U.S., China and India to submit climate targets following the Copenhagen summit last December.
Jasmeet Sidhu is the founder of the Peel Environmental Youth Alliance (PEYA), a network of students in the Peel Region working to implement environmental programs in all 220 Peel Region schools.
She is a past member of the Star's community editorial board, and is currently studying Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto.
In 2008 she was named one of Canada's 100 Most Powerful Women by the Women's Executive Network, and was named this year by Glamour Magazine as one of the Top 10 College Women in America.
Jasmeet will be in Copenhagen in December as a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation and the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition, and will be blogging for the Star during the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference.
She previously blogged for the Star during the 2008 UN Climate Change Conference in Poland.
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