For the past many years, the struggle to find meaningful solutions to urgent environmental problems has been between rational forces of light on the one hand aligned against, on the other side, the denialist, anti-intellectual forces of darkness obstructing any and all kinds of sensible policy proposals. A well-financed disinformation campaign and flat out lies by their friends in the fossil fuel industry has created confusion amongst a compliant corporate media not inclined to seriously investigate scientific matters in the first place. Unethical campaign contributions have prevented many an elected official to act courageously and in our best interests. Irreconcilable ideological divisions have poisoned and paralyzed our politics, with gridlock the dominant political theme amongst politicians, aided and abetted by an apathetic populace. Given our propensity to destroy the earth's precious resources and ravage the environment in a furious race towards achieving economic "growth," the dark clouds of Climate Change threaten the horizon - with the promise of change looking like a distant and unattainable dream to tens of millions of Americans living on the edge of economic disaster.
It doesn't have to be this way. Moreover, as you will see below the fold, negativity as well as cynicism need not be our only responses to inaction by our political leaders barely functioning under a broken post-Citizens United system for the past almost four years.
We are better than that.
You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself.
Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa. He led a decades-long struggle against institutionalized racism and spent 27 years in prison. His efforts would lead to the dismantlement of the apartheid regime in that country.
As Meteor Blades pointed in yesterday's edition of Green Diary Rescue, no one is unaware of the daunting challenges ahead nor delusional about the prospects for success
TLO™ (right) with Meteor Blades at a San Francisco #NOKXL Protest Rally earlier this year.
Photograph credit: Sven Eberlein (citisven).
The "Hummingbird" diaries get the thumbs-up this week. The climate-oriented series of diaries was initiated and coordinated by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse and brought to life by 19 diarists who looked at an entire range of issues related to what Green Diary Rescue calls climate chaos. What made the series sing for me was the affirmative focus of so many diarists. Yes, we face a tough future as a consequence of our profligate use of fossil fuels. Not least because those who profit from this profligacy don't want to stop profiting. The transition is going to be difficult, our kids and grandkids and their kids and grandkids will bear the brunt of the change.
But I am confident that despite the hardships, despite the stubborn resistance to needed policy changes by some of the powers-that-be and to the needed life-style changes of those of us lucky to affluent, we will do what is needed to survive, to adapt and to thrive. I am confident because of the determined look on a little girl's face, the youngest registered Kossack, an activist already, TheLittleOne. Serious, determined and obviously unwilling to surrender to despair over what is arguably the biggest crisis humans have ever faced. If you only have time to read a single diary in this series, read hers: Make the World a Better Place.
After the blogathon ended, I asked the diarists to reflect on the past week's experience and the "Hummingbirds" theme that John Crapper brilliantly suggested within our organizing group a few weeks ago. Above each of their wonderful submissions, you will see a multicolored image with key words from their comment embedded in it.
I created these images - some shaped as reflecting the message's content - by feeding the comments through Tagxedo, which is similar to Wordle except that it has many more capabilities to enhance the resulting word cloud image. Until two days ago, I had never heard of Tagxedo.
With some minor edits and a fair bit of reformatting, below are several comments offered by our diarists and participants.
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.
Sometimes it is hard to keep one's spirits up in the face of the daunting environmental problems we face. The idea behind the hummingbird theme for me is the uplifting experience almost universally experienced when one sees and observes a hummingbird. If we can rally enough climate hummingbirds we will feel a communal uplifting experience and empowerment that will allow us to soar through the difficulties we are now facing.
I think we've passed a tipping point where the Merchants of Denial are losing their battle. We are seeing more climate related impacts -- many that writers bear witness to here -- and the MoD squad is forced to soften their tone more all of the time. Even Fox News now runs material that recognizes the climate is changing. We've entered a time where we can make some progress on dialing back our destructive practices, both politically and technologically. But we have to remain engaged.
We can change the course.
I learned that in the process of exploring an issue, I won't necessarily find what I expected to find, or necessarily like where I end up. I learned that completing a diary and letting it fly is sometimes not even close to the end of that story, but instead may create a clear need to find out more, not to accept any current "best answer," but rather to try again and come up with a better answer, on some future day.
Perhaps that's an analogue for climate action generally. There are answers today, and it's urgent to act on those available solutions. But we will only succeed if at every moment we are open to a better way, and do not accept yesterday's limitations or conventional wisdom on what can be accomplished.
Mostly, it made me determined to learn more, think more, and not fail to do what I can do.
I don't honestly know much about hummingbirds in real life, except that they are tiny and delicate and beautiful. I agree with John Crapper that it is difficult to avoid delight upon seeing them.
I often find it hard to open my heart to hope. Apparently it seems to slip on through anyway, typically when I least expect it. The simple but miraculous beauty of our natural world never fails to inspire me. Figbash made the perfect comment in my diary -- she said that I had written a love letter to my beloved lakes. Actually, I think all of our diaries were motivated ultimately by love for our beautiful planetary home. Telling even the most painful stories, in order to make them come right, can only happen through love and hope. Silence is a sign of lost hope and vanquished love. The diaries testified that we are far from giving up, no matter how painful the current circumstances.
It is a privilege to participate in these efforts. I learn a great deal by researching, writing, and assembling a diary, but I learn even more by reading what my colleagues produce. I thank you all for listening and acting, on and off the site, on and off stage.
Someone who does not draw strength from himself and who is incapable of finding the meaning of his life within himself will...seek the map to his own orientation somewhere outside himself -- in some ideology, organization, or society, and then, however active he may appear to be, he is merely waiting, depending. He waits to see what others will do, or what roles they will assign to him, and he depends on them -- and if they don't do anything or if they botch things, he succumbs to disillusion, despair, and ultimately, resignation.
Vaclav Havel, Open Letters. A poet, playright, and political dissident, the former President of the Czech Republic was a breath of fresh air in international politics. He guided his country after the "Velvet Revolution" into the post-Soviet Era.
When asked to summarize our experience with the hummingbird themed blogathon, my immediate thought was how does one choose just a few of the bright and shiny jewels found in each of the posts and all of the comments, for this week was like unearthing treasure chests full of precious gems.
One young man mentioned in my diary that he was a new resident of my town so I sent him a kosmail inviting him to the next Beaches Democrats meeting on 9/17 as it was also a spaghetti supper. His reply was an enthusiastic "yes, point me towards some progressive groups and like minded people here in Jacksonville." He said that as a recent college graduate lucky enough to have landed a decent job right away thus meeting his student loan obligations, he has been able to shift focus to other problems such as our environment and decreasing his carbon footprint.
This young man is of the current generation, a generation and the ones to follow who will tackle this issue full on. They have no other choice really and they are our hope and our saviors.
This brought my mind back to a sentence in A Siegel's diary: " 'I' can find more droplets to carry as part of a larger effort to douse the mounting flames of climate chaos."
So it is with our collective droplets, we can make a difference and hopefully inspire others along the way.
In closing, I want to highlight a comment in my diary. It came late in the evening, after I'd gone offline, and was the perfect ending to my post and I believe the hummingbird mindset. The comment came from mama jo who posted the music video, "This Place" by Joni Mitchell and highlighted this quote from the song:
Spirit of the water
Give us all the courage and the grace
To make genius of this tragedy unfolding
The genius to save this place
When John first suggested the Hummingbirds theme I liked it because it was imaginative but also very down-to-earth, something everyone writing and reading would be able to relate to in their own personal way. My hopes were not only confirmed but my expectations exceeded when the first diaries started rolling in. There was such a variety of angles and frames from which people presented their stories and experiences, and they all worked, which I think is a tribute to the power of Hummingbird and Wangari Maathai's story.
I'm sure I wasn't the only diarist who had doubts whether my own diary was really relevant to the theme, and then was positively surprised by the positive responses and how the solar roofs of Germany kinda wove into the Hummingbird ecosystem. One last thing: While I usually don't like to rank and rate and don't think that's in the spirit of Hummingbird, TheLittleOne's grandiose debut diary was the absolute highlight for me. Bill McKibben, you've got competition for most inspiring climate activist. ;-)
For me, the Hummingbirds blogathon was about stories, especially stories of those who are doing things to help with climate awareness and their own personal contributions to fighting climate change. The stories ranged from the backyard to a much greater scale, from teaching children to growing a movement to being the canaries in the proverbial coalmine. The Hummingbird story indicates that we all have a contribution we can make, something that we can do even on the tiniest of scales to make a difference. One drop won't put out a fire, but all the drops collected together form a mighty river of change.
I’d like to thank Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse for having the foresight to ask a nine-year-old girl to contribute to the blogathon. While we are always proud of her accomplishments, her personality, her quirkiness and her intelligence, we want first for her to be proud of herself. Writing for this blogathon has given her the opportunity to feel proud of herself and for this I am grateful.
I’d also like to let the Daily Kos community know how much I appreciate their kind words of support and encouragement to her. The Daily Kos community is a place in which she knows she belongs, whether she is at an SF Kossack event or online, as we navigate the social dramas unfolding with her friends at school, I am grateful for this outlet.
As a family we are committed to continuing the work of the hummingbirds, having a place to share our experiences, for me, is critical in keeping up hope that we will succeed in sending out our message and overcoming the well oiled machines that for now, are leading us to a dark place.
Thank you for including me in this blogathon and for reading my diary. I appreciate everyone’s efforts in herding and organizing us.
It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope; and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
Robert F. Kennedy, Make Gentle the Life of This World, The Vision of Robert F. Kennedy. He was one of the last national politicians to speak up for the poor and dispossessed, while also advocating racial harmony. Where have they all gone?
"Hummingbirds" has been an outstanding experience. I'm honored to have been a part of it.
For me this work is about making as many connections as possible between the stories of people around us in all places and walks of life and the many facets of the climate crisis.
Partially it's about shaking things up: sounding the clarion and making the urgent need for action impossible to ignore...and partially it's about starting the seeds for the world we want our distant descendants to live in. We're not going to get to live in it; we live in a world on fire...but our twenty-times-great grandchildren will, if our species survives at all. It's up to us to make sure they get that chance. Pete Seeger sings, "Guard well our human chain / watch well you keep it strong / as long as Sun will shine // And this, our home / keep pure and sweet and green / for I am yours, and you are also mine." ("To My Old Brown Earth")
It is hard to plan for the distant future in the chaotic face of an accelerating emergency but it is impossible to do so alone. We Hummingbirds are doing what we can making connections, teaching one another and the DK community, leading by example, or just trying to do the right thing in many different ways, in the face of very daunting odds. I'm glad to know you're all there.
We have done many climate blogathons, but this one was both informative and ennobling. Rarely have I seen so much embodied wisdom and compassion on the rec list every day. You are all heroes, and you are all my heroes.
I sure hope I get to meet more of you in person someday.
...I want to sing for each of you...
...and listen to you each of you sing...
...and sing with all of you.
BentLiberal encapsulated in the video below my feelings about the Hummingbird Blogathon, all the good souls who organized it, promoted it, wrote diaries for it, as well as those who read the diaries and were moved.
On the day we (navajo, Meteor Blades, remembrance, BentLiberal, Glen The Plumber, citisven, Norm and myself) went to the immigrant camp in Watsonville, we found rain and then sunshine. We found crosses marking deaths. Over us a rainbow appeared.
I wasn't thinking of hummingbirds that day. I doubt the hummingbirds were thinking of us. Now I'm thinking that all of us in this blogathon are like hummingbirds between the path marked by the cross and the rainbow.
It's so ironic to me that, as we wound up this week, Instagram first told the story of the torrential rains in Colorado which precipitated the worst flooding in over three decades and illustrated once again just how unprepared so many communities are for the unexpected, such as a severe weather event. Hummingbirds, for me, was a week of personal story telling, reports as it were from 'your backyard' on how climate change has impacted your lives and the people and issues which are of most import to you.
We launched with the hope that stories will continue to filter in, raise awareness and generate action. Perhaps the high point of this blogathon for me was TheLittle One's brave and powerful telling of how much she has already accomplished in her nine years of life on our precious planet. And as usual the work with the 'behind the scenes team' -- obstacles we go through and overcome so that on the surface the product appears seamless, the commitments and 'got your back' mentality, the true life in true time ups and downs we share and support one another through which is a story in itself. The climate change blogathons are vehicles of inspiration and hope and I am always, always left with the feeling, if not here, where? For our community is so connected, so passionate, so attuned to what must be done and how vital it is that we act now. Thank you each and every one of you.
Anyone who has ever been a parent, or has ever been a child, frankly, knows what happens upon the demand to "Clean your room!"
Some kids will try to argue the room isn't that messy, despite the fact that they haven't been able to find clean socks for a week. Some kids will pretend that their friend on the phone, or even their homework is more important in the moment than dealing with the mess. Some kids will sit and sulk, maybe pick up one thing, like a magazine or comic book and then sit grouchily reading it or despondently staring at the mess for a half hour, grudgingly acknowledging the need to clean, but not knowing where to begin.
It's just human nature.
When it comes to climate change, however, we're well past the point where we all need to just roll up our sleeves and clean the frigging room.
This blogathon was affirming - it was wonderful to hear all the stories (even if some were very bleak - um, migrant workers, anyone?) from all those who are already active in doing what they can to do what needs to be done. As a species, we have got to stop pretending that not having socks ever again is okay (where socks are really drinking water for billions of people). We need to clean up the room before we start losing pets in there (where pets are the species we haven't quite chased out of existence yet).
Thanks to the organizers for a blogathon to remind us all that this really is a community of people with not only the willingness to help, but who are already, through conversations, words, and deeds, Doing Something. And thanks for letting me be one of the voices!
The inspiration for our blogathon name was a story about the Hummingbird and the Forest Fire narrated by the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner from Kenya, Professor Wangari Maathai.
It's a story about how we get hit by crises, such as climate change impacts, that can be so overwhelming. In the story, there is a huge forest fire and most animals feeling powerless stand by to watch the forest burn. Except for the hummingbird, which fills his beak with water from a stream, much like our own firefighters using helicopters to carry water to the burning forest. When told by the animal observers that he was too tiny to put out the fire, the hummingbird responded: "I am doing what I can."
Our hummingbirds blogathon presented diaries that visualized the harm to people, natural resources and wildlife by climate change impacts happening now, and some discussed solutions or activism. Our hope is to convince the observers who watch our climate crisis from the sidelines to join us to fight for effective climate change measures now.
What we face now are extreme climate change events happening concurrently. Whether it is forest fires, floods, storms or drought/heat, each alone can cost billions just to put out the immediate fire. What country can sustain several climate change events happening at the same time?
We will need many hummingbirds to convince DC to take effective action that should have been done many years ago. We can and will do this because our eco community is determined and wise, and that includes a very special guest blogger, TheLittleOne, daughter of remembrance and Glen The Plumber. Thanks to each blogger for writing such powerful diaries that generated so much excitement that I do believe we have more hummingbirds now!
I would like to thank our great DK Blogathon Community Organizers for their dedication, hard work and passion. We are hummingbirds too: When one can not do, another steps forward. And I would like to thank our adviser, Meteor Blades, who is always available and gives us the best advice, guidance and support for years now. And I have been known at times to have a lot of questions. So, thank you MB for caring so much.
As Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse mentioned above, successful blogathons require a great deal of cooperation, encouragement, and support from the Daily Kos community. To all of you who engaged the diarists in substantive exchanges, made wonderful comments, diligently recommended and tipped the posted diaries, and promoted them on Facebook and Twitter, a huge thank you from all of us. To one of our DK Overlords who linked PDNC's diary on the DK Facebook page, where it has garnered an astounding 728 "Likes" so far, special thanks. I can't say enough about the massive amount of time and effort expended by our diarists in formulating their thoughts and educating all of us. Without them, nothing is possible.
Finally - as they often say in the United States Congress during floor debates and committee meetings - a "point of personal privilege."
It's been a delight to work on the organizing team with a wonderful, dedicated, and selfless group of people during this blogathon. They bring their own unique perspectives, experiences, and skills to the table. All of them know a great deal more about environmental issues than I do and it's been an enlightening experience for me. We are a team and not unlike any other voluntary group, we discuss, we thrash out ideas, and sometimes we argue (we are humans, after all) amongst ourselves, but always we arrive at a consensus and move forward. Ever since I have been involved in it the past several years, the group's credo has been this: blogging is not about personal glory and self-aggrandizement; rather, our focus must be on the long-term issues facing the country. It is how it ought to be.
Thank you, one and all.
If you did not get the chance to read these beautifully written diaries, here's the complete list of diaries posted throughout the week: