Per Capita: Jonathan, Jane and Julia
Whether it’s reading it or writing it, this column can be depressing. The climate crisis is real. Describing or reading about the consequences of not addressing it with sufficient policies, actions, or urgency can paint a dark picture.
It’s important to know the scope of the problem, to face it head on. But it’s also important to not let negativity be the whole story. Recognizing the positive efforts of individuals, nations and everything in between is important to maintaining the energy necessary for a positive outcome to the crisis.
I admit to struggling between sounding the alarm and worrying that an overdose of negativity can be counter-productive. So, I appreciate when friends let me know about stories of people actively constructing a livable future. This column is about items friends have sent me that give me positive energy, and I hope to pass that on to readers.
First, my friend Jonathan, with whom I share walks and conversation, gifted my wife and me a book titled, “COOL; Women Leaders Reversing Global Warming,” by Paola Gianturco and her 12-year-old granddaughter Avery Sangster. Together they sought out and interviewed women and girl leaders, all of whom are working on creative efforts to involve and educate around the issue of climate.
In their introduction they note that, “We discovered a salient fact along the way: Women are especially effective leaders when it comes to combating global warming.” The book features examples of projects seeking to increase awareness, invent solutions, and reduce emissions.
For example, Kim McKay, director and CEO of the Australian Museum organized and engaged over 100,000 volunteers for the FrogID program, a citizen-science project that provides anyone in Australia a free phone app that records frogs croaking, enabling scientists to determine the species and, importantly, the phone’s GPS lets them know where the frog is.
Why, you might ask. Frogs are very temperature-sensitive. Where they are, in what numbers, and where they’re moving from and to, is the canary in the coal mine of climate change. The database being produced by this citizen-science project, coupled with data on temperature and dryness, will provide Aussies with factual effects of the climate crisis, and “will be a game changer in terms of understanding our biodiversity impacts.” To this end, the project will, in conjunction with a private-sector partner, build a pond on the school ground to enable students to engage in the FrogID program.
Second, Jane Fonda is the author of a book provided to me by my friend Michael. The title is, “What Can I do? The path from Climate Despair to Action.” The book self-identifies as not a “wish list” but instead as a “to do” list. It recognizes the climate emergency and pulls no punches. As the book’s jacket indicates, “This is going to take an all-out war on drilling, fracking, deregulation, racism, misogyny, colonialism and despair — all at the same time.”
The book walks through the list of important issues and gives positive steps individuals can take to address oceans, water in general, plastics, climate migration, forests, food and agriculture. Importantly, it also includes chapters on women and climate change, environmental justice, human rights, a just transition to an equitable future, and how to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable.
Also, inspired by Greta Thunberg’s statement that “our house is on fire,” Fonda’s book chronicles her effort inviting all of us to participate in “Fire-Drill Fridays.” This was a series of programs and actions that focused on engaging people as “firefighters” for measures to respond to the climate crisis; a model others could use in their communities.
Finally, right here in our community is an example of an innovative and positive way to engage young people on the climate crisis. Julia Levine, our poet laureate, imagined and then implemented the “Hope River” program for seventh-graders.
Julia is acutely aware of the seriousness of the climate crisis and is concerned that, “In this time of great uncertainty, children are experiencing an epidemic of anxiety and depression.”
She cites a 2021 article in Nature that reports, “Climate change is causing distress, anger, and other negative emotions in children and young people worldwide …” The article indicates, “this ‘eco-anxiety’ has a negative impact on respondent’s daily lives … and is partly caused by the feeling that governments aren’t doing enough to avoid a climate catastrophe…”
Her program involved reading and talking about poetry and discussion of student’s feelings about climate change. Students were introduced to experts in the community who talked to them about positive and meaningful climate-related actions and projects. Students then wrote their own poems and had the option to record them as part of a “sound river” installed along pathways students take to and from school. Through the miracle of modern technology, the poems will be heard as passers-by pass by.
To find out more, go to (https://agws.app/davis/hope-river/. The community can float down Hope River and listen to these poems from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 18, by downloading an app from the Hope River website.
— John Mott-Smith is a resident of Davis. This column appears in the print edition of the Davis Enterprise the first and third Wednesday of each month. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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