Hummingbird for the Climate: One person, wings beating with awareness, rising with passion, creativity and dedication, on a mission to change direction and influence others, taking action, doing what he or she can as best they know how, believing in the power of one, knowing that an elephant doesn't notice the prick of one, but will change direction as the result of millions.
I first met Michael at a 350.org community meeting he sponsored out of his home. A trained presenter for Al Gore's Climate Reality Project and on the education workgroup for Seattle's local chapter of 350.org. he is driven, passionate and dedicated to the cause of addressing climate change. For him it is personal. It is obvious his motivation is his 2 children ages nine and eleven.
Today in the conference room there are about 10, my wife and I included. Michael turns on the projector and begins his methodical and factual presentation with a dizzying array of facts.
1. In 2012 the Arctic ice lost was greater than the size of the U.S.A.
2. At the current rate in only four years the Arctic will be ice-free in summer.
3. Humans have heated up the earth faster in the last 17 years than the earth warms itself in 1,000.
4. Our earth holds 5% more water vapor in the atmosphere today than 30-40 years ago.
5. About one-third of all greenhouse gas comes from the U.S.A.
6. China recently has passed us up for total carbon emissions. But what country makes most of our stuff now? Those factories make our stuff.
7. The U.S. is number 1 in gas consumption, burning twice as much as China.
Laying out a powerful case condemning our current state of affairs and the trajectory of our future “if we just keep doing what we’re doing” he pauses to let it all sink in. Then he transitions into solutions, focusing on the local, doable ones. He offers hope. He asks for commitment from each of us. He says he's a hummingbird. He asks for help. He asks each to become a fellow hummingbird because “knowing what we know, we have to act”. He made me want to help him.
His main focus is seeding the Plant for the Planet children's initiative to other schools as quickly as possible. He argues effectively that children have the most to lose and hold the greatest sway with parents, inducing their involvement in the issue.
“Parents know we have to change our ways but we don’t want to short-change our children now, so we try not to think about it. But we’re failing our children if we don’t think ahead for them.”Foster uses the Photo Album test,
“Imagine, looking back through a photo album in 20 years. The very things parents do today to privilege our children — pay for big vacations, big toys, a bigger house — these are the very things that our children are going to look back on in horror a few years from now and say to us, ‘how could you do that, when you knew that Life was at stake?’”
History: From Plant for the Planet (adapted from website)
In January 2007, a German boy, 9-year-old Felix Finkbeiner founded The Plant-for-the-Planet Children´s Initiative . While researching a climate project for school, Felix grew inspired by Wangari Maathai, who planted 30 million trees in Africa. In his class presentation, Felix ended by saying that he thought children could plant one million trees in each country of the world.
In the following years Plant-for-the-Planet grew into a worldwide movement. At present over 19,000 children from all over the world have been trained as Climate Justice Ambassadors.
Children state things with simple clarity that strips away all the clutter adults have.
The clarity of youth:
Nobody knows for sure if the world’s sea levels will rise by 0.2 or 2.0 meters by the end of the century. But there are three things that we children know for sure:
1. Many of us will live through till the end of this century.
2. With every ton of carbon that we take out of the ground in the form of petroleum, coal, and crude oil and then release into the atmosphere as CO2, we are making the greenhouse effect even stronger.
3. We already have the technology we need so that we can leave petroleum, coal, and crude oil in the ground (Uranium too, of course, because we children don’t want nuclear waste either).
Our 3-point plan to save our future: (again directly from the website Plant for the Planet)
We kids have thought a lot about what we would do if we were in charge of the world (i.e. if we were the leaders of the world’s governments) and were preparing to meet up at the next decision-making climate summit. What would we do in order to save our collective future? In response to this question we have organised our answers into our own “3-Point Plan to Save Our Future.”
1. Planting 1,000 billion trees.
We want to protect the existing woods and we want to plant billions of new trees. Altogether 1,000 billion new trees…. These trees would absorb an additional 10 billion tons of CO2 every year. 1,000 billion trees sounds like a huge amount, but it is possible. The Chinese alone planted 2.7 billion trees in 2009 as a contribution to the UNEP-Billion Tree Campaign. If everybody plants 150 trees in the next ten years we will reach 1,000 billion trees by 2020. By working together we can definitely achieve this. It isn’t that hard and it is not impossible anymore.
2. Leave the fossil fuels in the ground.
We absolutely need to get our CO2 emissions levels down to zero by 2050. The technology for such a CO2-free future already exists. With today’s engineering capabilities we can easily make the transition to 100% renewable energy (without the need for nuclear power) by 2050.
3. Poverty into the museum through climate justice.
To restrict the future warming to just 2°C, which was promised by the heads of the governments in Copenhagen, only 600 billion tons of CO2 can be released until 2050. If we produce more CO2 than this the temperature will also increase more than 2°C. If the average temperature increases by more than 2°C there is a chance that the ice in Greenland could melt completely. This would mean that the mean sea Level would rise by 7 metres. If we divide 600 billion tons of CO2 by 40 years this allows 15 billion tons of CO2 per year. In 2010 31 billion tons of CO2 was produced. The next question we face is how we can divide these 15 billion tons of CO2 fairly across the worlds population? Should it continue like it is today with the USA and Europe producing more than 60 percent just by themselves? For us children there is only one solution: everybody gets the same, meaning 1.5 tons of CO2 per person per year, estimating a population increase to 9 to 10 billion people by 2050.
But how does this help to solve the problem of global poverty? On average an American citizen emits around 20 tons of CO2 per year and a European citizen emits around 9 tons. In comparison, people in Africa emit on average only 0.25 tonnes per year. Our proposal: The people in the rich countries, who want to emit more CO2, must buy the rights from those who emit less. This is our principle for climate justice. With the money that the people in the poorer countries earn they can then invest in agriculture, education, health and more. They will also have an incentive to invest in renewable energy technologies so that they can maintain the right to sell their CO2 emission allowance. This will also stop them from making the same senseless mistakes that we in the west have.EXPANDING ACROSS THE NATION
In Michael's own words:Six years doesn’t seem like enough time to plant 1,000 billion trees, or to organize wealthy nations into paying impoverished nations for being green. But this volunteer-driven children’s movement, “is by far the most hopeful thing I’ve come across in 25 years of global warming news. How many environmental organizations have a 3-Point Plan to reverse global warming posted on their website? Simple and clear: 1 trillion trees by 2020, combat global poverty, and end carbon emissions. They’ve counted 12.6 billion trees planted in the last few years. That’s a start!”That’s the attitude that Dr. James Hansen refers to as the “human tipping point” we need to reach quickly in order to avoid committing our planet and young people to an unlivable future. A social response of direct action moves us rapidly to a new future. The best or the worst is yet to come, but only we can make it happen. As Michael Foster says, “We’ll do it because… how can we not do it?”
“Child Ambassadors hold absolute moral authority because when we grownups are gone, they’ll still be here. These children can change the conversation on climate from ‘whether it is happening’ to ‘What are you doing to protect my future? What are you doing today to stop global warming?’”
“I want every kid in the USA to have a chance to experience an Academy, to learn to speak out for the future they will inherit, while it’s still possible to make a huge difference.”
“Today I need volunteers all across the country. What does it take to host an Academy for 80 students? People. Parents, retired teachers, college students, anybody can organize a day-long workshop for local kids in every town all over the USA. Let’s get a competition going to plant more trees.”
“We need our kids to tell us, ‘Stop wrecking my planet, right now!’ I know parents will listen when their kids say, “We shouldn’t buy that big SUV. I don’t think the earth can afford it. Maybe we should plant a thousand trees instead.”
As the Climate Justice Ambassadors say, “Stop Talking. Start Planting!”
Michael is just one hummingbird working hard to make a difference. Every day he causes ripples of change. He asks anyone who will listen to join him and become a hummingbird too. He does it for his children. He does it for your children. He does it for the world’s children, who deserves their flight through life too! He knows if enough hummingbirds join in the effort there is much reason for optimism. I agree!
Michael Foster: A mental health therapist and father in Seattle, Mike always had an interest in the impacts humans have on the health and welfare of our planet. From his childhood in Texas, where he grew up in the shadow of oil refineries, he has always been aware that we have the ability and the obligation to be positive stewards for the Earth – not just for ourselves, but for future generations.
Mike is a speaker for the Climate Reality project, the Al Gore initiative, and volunteers his time to present “The Slide Show” to any and all interested groups. His particular focus is exploring the ways that families can work together to reverse global warming and create a sustainable future.
Michael Foster’s website: Climate Change for Families******The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade one never expects to sit. - Nelson Henderson
"Hummingbirds" Blogathon: September 9-September 13, 2013
In May 2006, the late environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai addressed 7,000 international educators who had gathered in Montreal for the 58th annual conference of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisers (NAFSA). Here is the story she shared with them.
One day a terrible fire broke out in a forest - a huge woodlands was suddenly engulfed by a raging wild fire. Frightened, all the animals fled their homes and ran out of the forest. As they came to the edge of a stream they stopped to watch the fire and they were feeling very discouraged and powerless. They were all bemoaning the destruction of their homes. Every one of them thought there was nothing they could do about the fire, except for one little hummingbird.
This particular hummingbird decided it would do something. It swooped into the stream and picked up a few drops of water and went into the forest and put them on the fire. Then it went back to the stream and did it again, and it kept going back, again and again and again. All the other animals watched in disbelief; some tried to discourage the hummingbird with comments like, "Don't bother, it is too much, you are too little, your wings will burn, your beak is too tiny, it’s only a drop, you can't put out this fire."
And as the animals stood around disparaging the little bird’s efforts, the bird noticed how hopeless and forlorn they looked. Then one of the animals shouted out and challenged the hummingbird in a mocking voice, "What do you think you are doing?" And the hummingbird, without wasting time or losing a beat, looked back and said:
"I am doing what I can." In this time of escalating climate change, this is our challenge.
To refuse to surrender to the apathy of denialism and fatalism.
To be fierce in our defense of the Earth.
To continue to fight in the face of overwhelming odds.
And always, always, to do what we can.
Because it is only by each of us doing what we can, every day, that we will save the Earth – for ourselves, and for the generations to come. Like the hummingbird.
Our Daily Kos community organizers are Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, boatsie, rb137, JekyllnHyde, citisven, peregrine kate, John Crapper, Aji, and Kitsap River. Photo credit and copyright: Kossack desertguy and Luma Photography. All rights reserved. Used with permission.