Heat, but no light: What to do with incendiary articles?

by Flickr user kate.gardiner

I’ve had this dilemma before.

When someone has a viewpoint very different from my own, I don’t instinctively put up my dukes. For the most part, I want to engage. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and try to see where they’re coming from.

And it’s not because I want to be on some kind of moral high ground–I’m opinionated and I get pissed off sometimes–but rather, it just doesn’t make much sense for me to waste energy sparring for the sake of sparring.

So here’s an example. In one of my comment threads, I had to make the following statement

“Before I go any further, however, I have to insist that you stop clouding this discussion with

1) Ad hominem attacks, like calling me pathetic.
2) Crude instructions to do things like “check my head”
3) Assumption-based “questions,” like “you don’t care about that, do you?”
4) Arrogant statements like “I’m schooling people on other blogs.”

Anyway, after giving the commenter ample opportunity to engage without the condescension and vitriol, I discontinued the dialogue (if, indeed, that’s what it was).

But that was a personal example, and now I’m embarking on media research that includes points of view that, to me, seem outrageously mean-spirited.

Basically, I’m writing a paper about the meta-conversation on climate change–discussing the discussion, if you will–and if you’ve been following the news on this topic, I’m sure you’ve heard some yelling and name-calling. Continue reading

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“The Story of Stuff”–let’s have a conversation.

Only when the last tree has died
and the last river has been poisoned
and the last fish has been caught
will we realize
we cannot eat money.
~Cree proverb

It’s funny how the littlest incidents can give you hope in the face of overwhelming worries.

This morning I listened to “The Last Call” on CBC Radio one, a special program hosted by renowned environmentalist David Suzuki. One of the people he interviewed was Annie Leonard, the woman featured in the short video above. I was struck by how concise yet articulate she was.

When the radio show ended, I decided to google Leonard’s short movie. About 7 minutes in,  my 13-year-old sister, Bebe, entered the room and peered over my shoulder. To my surprise, she asked me to start the movie again from the beginning. From the corner of my eye I noticed the look of concern on her face. For a girl who loves to shop, she laughed quite heartily at skinny heel vs. fat heel segment of the video. It seemed she took a moment to question her own love of malls and sparkly new things. When it was over, Bebe said that the video–which is being used in classrooms across the United States–should also be shown here in Canada.

You know, her warm reception of the short film gave me hope. In the past, I thought I was boring Bebe with all my talk of environmental activism. At the age of 23, I thought I may already be sounding like a lecturing grown-up to her. When I reminded her of simple things, like taking shorter showers or turning off her lights, she would occasionally grumble or make a long face. Now that I think about it, though, this may be because little sisters don’t always like being nagged by big sisters in general. The message of responsible citizenry, however, may actually be getting through to her.

Continue reading

So, this is Earth Day. And what have we done?

contemplation

I, for one, am trying not to get upset. You know, I really could discuss any number of issues–the water shortage, the e-waste we dump into other countries, the food crisis, the desecration of fundamental ecosystems, the threat to honey bees, the disgusting amount of food we simply throw away each and every day–but you’ve heard it all before.

Today would be a good day to actually think about it. But, hey, if you don’t want to…that’s fine. You will definitely have to sometime.

I don’t want to be a cynic, but I don’t have anything overly hopeful to say today. Earth day isn’t even trending on twitter. We go insane on Christmas, Halloween and Valentines day. Even St. Patricks day (which most people just see as an excuse to get loaded on green beer) gets more attention that the one measley day on which we’re supposed to think about the living system that supports and endures us.

Since I don’t know quite know how to express what I’m feeling, I suppose I will just post some quotations by others who have said it better. Feel free to leave some of your favourites in the comments section.

Happy Earth Day, Earthlings.

POINTS TO PONDER ON EARTH DAY

We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb

Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress. ~John Clapham, A Concise Economic History of Britain, 1957

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit Nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. ~Elwyn Brooks White, Essays of E.B. White, 1977

In America today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops. ~Paul Brooks, The Pursuit of Wilderness, 1971

I have no doubt that we will be successful in harnessing the sun’s energy…. If sunbeams were weapons of war, we would have had solar energy centuries ago. ~Sir George Porter, quoted in The Observer, 26 August 1973

The packaging for a microwavable “microwave” dinner is programmed for a shelf life of maybe six months, a cook time of two minutes and a landfill dead-time of centuries. ~David Wann, Buzzworm, November 1990

The insufferable arrogance of human beings to think that Nature was made solely for their benefit, as if it was conceivable that the sun had been set afire merely to ripen men’s apples and head their cabbages. ~Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, États et empires de la lune, 1656

Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we cannot eat money. ~Cree Indian Proverb

It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory.  ~W. Edwards Deming