This Changes Everything Vs. My Life on the Road


For NaNoWriMo last year I wrote a blog post a day and one of them was about comparative reading. I think it is such an amazing concept and I wanted to do it again. It gives you a deeper understanding of what you have read, how certain writers tackle certain aspects, and how you can shift your focus when reading.

“This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate” is a book by Naomi Klein from 2014 which looks into the economic, social, and environmental aspects of climate change while also analysing how capitalism brought us there. It was a fascinating book and will probably be one of the main sources for my own project because it has so much wisdom in it.

Gloria Steinem’s memoir “My Life on the Road” was published in 2015. She describes her life as an activist, the people she has met and who have guided her throughout, and the issues women were and are still facing today. It was inspiring to read about a life lived so fully.

What I loved most about these two books was their inclusiveness, their focus on minorities and their unique struggles. Steinem writes about her experiences with people who have faced discrimination and how they dealt with them. What we can do about them. Naomi Klein is also very aware and she takes it a step further, linking these issues to climate change.

One aspect that made me look at “My Life on the Road” through an environmental lens in the first place was this one by Steinem in her interview with Emma Watson: If we had real equality between women and men, women would be able to decide for themselves if they want to receive children or not. They would have full reproductive freedom and would not have to have children they don’t want or cannot have. It would offer them opportunities to work, to invest in education, to live more sustainably. The effect of climate change also depends on global population size. This is why feminism should be one of the main strategies to conquer climate change. Naomi Klein adds to this as she says that every movement aiming for equality is a step in the right direction of conquering climate change.

Our environmental problems today are the product of hundreds of years of inequality, of exploitation, and expression of power over nature. In a culture where not everyone is able to work together because of prejudices and strong opposing opinions, there will be no unified action against climate change. One which we so desperately need. Gloria Steinem argues that these movements are indeed happening right now, though, and that she has experienced living right among them. Felt their power and the hope they radiate. This is also what I noticed in the end of “This Changes Everything”. There is a way to get through this. We have to transform our values and work for a more just world.

“My Life on the Road” examines how this is done in detail. Going around, talking to people. Listening to their struggles and spreading awareness. Giving talks to activists, forming groups, marching. These are the practical aspects of the great change Naomi Klein wrote about.

Since Klein’s book is researched to a great detail and could be seen more as a piece of journalism, it does not have as many personal stories in it as “My Life on the Road”. However, the part I loved the most, was her telling the story how she struggled to get pregnant and how her son was born. She wrote about the BP oil spill and its effect on the eggs and youngest fish in lakes and oceans. It was beautifully linked and thus all the more powerful. “My Life on the Road” as a memoir has all these stories and anecdotes which are linked to the pressing issues of our time. This taught me a lot: When writing my own book I have to connect my own stories to the issues I’m talking about. Otherwise, they will get too distant. I don’t want to be a preacher. I want to be an observer of the world, a storyteller.

Both books have changed my perception. After finishing “This Changes Everything” today I am a bit more hopeful that we can avert the crisis, but I’m also more painfully aware of the damage that we have done thus far. I feel physical pain in my stomach and heart when I read about oil spills, about devastating pollution, and the exploitation of people all over the world. Gloria Steinem assured me through the women’s movement that this can be changed. I have had the great amount of opportunities only through women like her. Once we recognise our power as a unified people, we can make a difference. Once we tell our stories and share our values, we will succeed.

Both of them showed me a journalism at its finest. Since it is a profession I could really see myself in, it was interesting to read about their lives. I felt a personal connection through the love of writing and the passion with which they dive into their topics.

What is the overall message of both books?
Be hopeful. Work harder. Be more inclusive. Listen and learn.

#climatemarch


We Resist. We Build. We Rise.

Weighed down by a bit of weekend-loneliness, inability to wrap my head around uni stuff, and the cold fingers of writer’s block strangling me, I was not in a good place today. Together with the news of Trump’s executive order on Arctic drilling… my hope hid itself in my cold, dark fridge. It doesn’t see climate change if it is in there. (I believe that is also what most climate change deniers do.)

 Just like the Women’s marches did early this year, the climate march on Washington today gave me my hope back. It crawled from between the kale and the carrots out of the fridge and announced that it would get stuff done now.

These marches show that people care. They show that we have the ability as humans to come together peacefully and protest for a common denominator: The future of our planet. It is beautiful to see people from all over the world supporting each other even if they are so different. Because this unites us all.

“When humans are ranked instead of linked, everyone loses.” Gloria Steinem in “My Life on the Road”

Some argue that climate change divides rich and poor even more. Only to a certain point in time can those, who made their money through oil and coal, build their forts to protect themselves from floods and storms. In the end, nature always wins. We are all on the same page here. And it is not us against Mother Earth. We are rather her ignorant, carefree children who have yet to grow up. We don’t have the time to go through that process. We have to understand right now that it is best for us to work together in peace. That love and understanding are the only ways through which we will be able to survive. Humans took such a long time to evolve. All that time we have lived in connection with our planet, never against it. Let’s find that connection again. To our Earth, and between ourselves.

Did you go protesting in any of the climate marches? If so – Thank you so much! You are awesome! – please tell me your feelings and thoughts about it!

NaNoWriMo Day 10: Environmentalism 2.0


The first snow of the autumn has reached Cottbus and we are freezing, sitting in Uni and trying not to think about what happened yesterday. We are a bunch of hopeful people. At least we try to be.

We discussed the events a lot today and one particular thought haunted us. What will happen to our environment? All that we try to fight for?

In International Environmental Law, our lecturer suggested that we took a good look at the Paris Agreement, Article 28:

At any time after three years from the date on which this Agreement has entered into force for a Party, that Party may withdraw from this Agreement by giving written notification to the Depositary. (…)

Even if Trump wanted to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, it would take 3 years for him to hand in that note and another year until he really would get out of it. So well done, Obama, for signing it just in time. That’s what we read in the law. The problem is – there is also the possibility to simply not do what’s in the law. In this very case, the Paris Agreement is not as harsh as the Kyoto Protocol. The US hasn’t signed that one, by the way. And Canada withdrew to not face the fines they had to pay because they didn’t fulfil the regulations. Germany isn’t much better either…

For many people, the Paris Agreement is a groundbreaking accomplishment. It may be, for all that I know. I’ll go a bit into detail once we have discussed it in uni. There are a lot of things I don’t really understand yet. Law is so confusing! The difficulty with treaties is this: It will not change single people. There is a lot of talking without saying anything. There are a lot of action plans never implemented. There are a lot of recommendations never considered.

My dad believes that the real change has to be made economically. I can see his point. We live in a world where money is playing a vital part in our lives. Who am I kidding, The part in our lives. Which ever way we might argue, we are not going to change that. Therefore, we have to work on that basis. There are lots of economical solutions we were taught in our Economics classes. Standards, Taxes, Tradable Permits. Very simplified they mean the following: Standards set the pollution to a certain level. Taxes often provide the incentive to emit even less because you still have to pay taxes on even little emissions. Tradable Permits are based on the idea that there is a polluter with more emissions and one with less. Both own emission permits. The one with higher emissions can buy those from the one with smaller emissions. Thereby the one who emits less, makes a profit. We could even implement that on a private level: If you want to drive long distance with your car, there has to be someone who creates energy by a solar plant, for example. Trade the permissions and everyone is happy.

The idea is this: If you pollute, you have to pay. This is a lovely principle which can be found written down in the Rio Declaration of 1992. It has a legal basis in International Law. However, it isn’t really implemented on a global scale. In the end, the consumer has to pay. It’s as simple as that.

I also really like the idea of a carbon tax for people. Every action that increases the greenhouse gas emissions has to be paid for. Make meat and fish so expensive that no one is able to buy them anymore and no one will do so.

This strategy seems nice but I doubt it would work like that. Furthermore, the implementation is just not possible. We have such a strong lobby especially behind the biggest emitters – the food, transport and energy industry. This is where people need to make changes.

Emily Hunter (http://emilyhunter.ca/), the daughter of two of the founders of greenpeace, speaks in a Ted Talk (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KsB2qtDaiRw&list=WL&index=36) about modern activism. She has been everywhere, fighting and campaigning for environmentalism. Until she found that this kind of activism might not be for her. Going with boats into every corner of our oceans to stop whale hunting. That’s so seventies! Instead, she started to make films and write books, make documentaries about activists and share their stories. She is a journalist and calls herself storyteller. Her activism is storytelling.

She points out that our generation is the biggest to ever have existed on this planet. And we are the ones to bring the change. Maybe not by old-fashioned campaigning anymore but by media. We are able to write and film and make this earth a better place. Our voices are completely different from those of the 1970s. Now, the environment should concern all of us and it does. Therefore, we should all be environmentalists in our own ways. You don’t have to buy yourself a boat and fight against whaling in the Antarctic. You might not be a part of huge protests or demonstrations. You might simply share the message that this planet needs our help and we therefore have to stand up to make it happen. If you can, though, try to make your message heard to as many people as possible.

She also mentions that the movement has to become much more radical. At the moment there are many actions which are on a local level. Or which go viral for a few weeks and disappear again. We need to change that. Our planet has to be on the agenda permanently. Not on a negative note, though. It has to fill our news with hopeful messages and not ones of despair.

I believe our future lies in technology. My father is an engineer, that should explain a lot. Renewable energies and technology to help us with all the problems we face. In many rural areas solar panels and mobile phones have transformed the business life. The education system. People are empowered and find new ways to use their potential. There is another wonderful TedTalk I would like to suggest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDo2mx5aBts. The Future of Environmentalism.

We face many environmental challenges in this world but they can be solved by investing in human brain power and technology. This sustainable innovation can be our way to save this world and make our lives better. I just found out, that there is some research done to make solar panels out of carbon and not silicon.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/carbon-emerges-as-new-solar-power-material/

There are projects to make artificial photosynthesis work, much more effective than the real ones of plants. Still, it is a very good idea to plant trees. We should never underestimate the power of our vegetation. I love trees, I also hug them sometimes.

The past environmentalism has been based on two things. Fear and Guilt. Fear doesn’t work. Guilt doesn’t work. In industrialised countries, we have caused the problem of climate change. Maybe guilt works for us. But not for those who suffer from the consequences of our irresponsible behaviour!

We love doing stuff. So instead of telling people what not to do, we should encourage them to make stuff! To come up with new technologies and innovations! Humans are so good at that!

“The new environmentalism is got to be about doing more, not doing less. About inspiring people to tackle climate change but also giving people a better life in the here and now.” Martin Wright

Today, I want to motivate you to change things by doing some little things that may have a widespread impact.

  1. All around the globe, small businesses try to bring changes in their communities. On https://www.kiva.org/ you can find them and help them with giving micro-credits. They pay you the money back and you can invest in the next project. This way innovative people are supported, especially women who normally do not have the chance to do so in many developing countries.
  2. Invest in crowd-funding. There are incredible minds out there working on the environmental technology of the future. You can find them on crowd-funding websites – help support their projects or spread the word!
  3. Watch the videos I suggested and share them with other people. Inspire them to take action and tell them that it is important to you. Talk to them about how you can make a difference.
  4. Most importantly, though, is to inform yourself. Read an article about renewable energies, about new technologies, about trees if you like, everything that excites you! If you are an engineer, maybe you can find ways to work on environmental projects or share your knowledge with others.
  5. For my fellow WordPress bloggers: If you are interested in photography, I challenge you to make a photo report about environmental problems in your region or hometown. It can be water pollution, waste, air pollution, mining … anything that you recognise as a problem. Whatever difficulties you find in your neighbourhood. Go out and take a photo. Write about it. Share it with other people. This is a small contribution but in our modern age, it is not that hard to get your voice heard. The WordPress community is an absolutely lovely one and I enjoy so much being part of it.
    In the end I will dedicate a post to your topic and I will do a lot of research to back it with some facts. Thereby, we will have stories from everywhere shared on different platforms to underline their importance.

In Cottbus, for example, we have a big problem with open cast and lignite mining. The pollution and environmental damage it has caused is unbelievable. Habitats are destroyed, people have to move, whole ecosystems are ruined. For long periods of time. The lakes build after the mining will never have the same biodiversity as before.

Those are the stories I’m looking for. Share them, make them important. Let them be your contribution, your activism 2.0, your new environmentalism.

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