September 29, 2007 | Ronda Jambe

Al who? or how I became a climate warrior

The girls at the hairdresser’s didn’t recognise his full page photo. So much for the power of the Women’s Weekly to inform that demographic. Nor were they impressed at the idea of spreading the word about climate change.
But I was impressed, mightily, with the other participants, even with myself for being in their company, and particularly with Mr Gore when I did the Climate Project training with him last weekend. The Australian Conservation Foundation should also catch a bouquet, as their organisation was faultless. You can book a presentation through the ACF web site. The purpose is to carry on the information and consciousness raising of An Inconvenient Truth, modified for Australian audiences and tailored as much as possible for specific groups.
Nearly 2000 Australians applied to volunteer for this second round of training, and 170 were selected. We paid for our own travel and accommodation over the weekend. The ACF said they were off-setting our travel carbon, which is a relief, since many of us flew. I was expecting lots of tree-huggers and old hippies like myself, but instead many of them were business people and professionals. Sustainability offers lots of opportunities, and talking to the others about what is happening across areas such as insurance, energy and water savings, and green design was eye-opening in itself.
One participant from Queensland said the state government is pouring over $1M per week into water infrastructure, to move water from dams to the city. The water won’t be going directly to Brisbane homes and businesses, but will be used to keep the water-hungry coal-fired power plants operating.
And since water storage is currently at 20%, with the last 5% unusable, the odds are that south-east Queensland will grind to a halt in the foreseeable future, unless the Rain God takes pity. First the power will dry up, and then the water. It is hard to imagine any kind of urgent action that could forestall that disaster, but like any good thriller, it sure holds your attention, waiting to see how it all pans out.
This is the kind of data that would make a lesser soul want to up their meds. So I was ready for some inspiration. Richard Dawkins says pantheism is ‘sexed up atheism’, but it’s as close as I can come to religion, and sufficent to turn me into a ‘climate warrior’ (Steve Irwin is another worthy hero.)
Viewing the film An Inconvenient Truth for a second time on the Friday night, the impression of the man’s sincerity and decency again came to the fore. All day Saturday he took us through the slide show, commenting, bringing in Australian data and examples, deferring to the venerable Graham Pearson, who presided at the table with him, on scientific detail.
I was expecting Mr Gore to be knowledgable and intelligent, and this was the case. I was hoping he would be gracious and entertaining, and he certainly was. But what bowled me over was his shining humanity. No apologies if that sounds soppy, there is a time to acknowledge heros, and he is one of mine.
Gore could be playing golf, soaking up speaking fees and consultancies, and doing little else. Instead, he is dashing all around the world, trying his level best to help move governments into the next stage where we might actually solve this problem. He knows what is at stake: if we can solve this, we can solve poverty, disease, bigotry. He will be training groups in Spain and India, with a Chinese group under negotiation.
One new slide compares Australia with California: our population and economy is just slightly smaller, and California is set to reduce emissions by perhaps 80% by 2050, if their legislation goes through. Without agressive action, ours will increase by 80% in that time. On the graph, our two paths sharply diverge. Can we afford to become the bad guys?
Asking us to focus, as the movie does, on the precious natural places and species that speak most deeply to us, he encouraged us to become the force for change through a change in consciousness. This is the language of hope that fuels action.
He is right up to date on complex systems, and knows that a sudden switch to a new ‘attractor’ of a low carbon economy is possible, and that it could happen very quickly. It is comforting to think of myself as the smallest fractal, a kind of benign nano-bot. Like the good folk at Get Up (Bravo!), we are relentlessly generating forward momentum.
So off we trot, all over the country, speaking, talking, acting, doing, being the change. We’re about to get solar panels on the roof, a group in Maleny has negotiated discounts on bulk solar hot water systems, a fellow participant from the ACT has started a group to ‘See Change’.
Mr Gore went directly from Melbourne to give the keynote speech at the UN on climate change, and the buzz there indicates that many nations are now ready for a much bigger commitment. Mr Gore is calling for a successor to Kyoto quickly, and no new coal fired power without carbon sequestration.
One possible weakness in the Climate Project as it now operates is that public opinion has shifted towards greater awareness, partly as a result of Mr Gore’s movie. There is likely to be less scepticism now than even a year ago, and greater requests for information about action. That’s where I see my attention going in modifying the slide show, but it’s early days for the new crop of presenters.
Quoting Churchill, Gore said ‘We are now entering a time of consequences.’ There will be many, and some will be sorrowful. But reaching out and acting with like-minded others is how some of us will reinforce the resilience that got other generations through tough times.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 2:49 pm | Comments Off on Al who? or how I became a climate warrior |
Filed under: Environment

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