Image: Time

The world has gone to Lima, apparently with the view of saving the planet. Signals are being beamed to us in microsecond wires of communication. We Are Here To Act. Not really, of course. Lima is an exercise in semantics, spin and a photo opportunity that will certainly eventuate after frantic discussions. The tone will be one of urgency, desperation in search of a communiqué to wave before the gathering throng, Chamberlain-like. This has been the practice of such gatherings for more than a decade now. All talk and little Climate Change action. The Australian government should not have been so nervous about attending. There was no need for the hardline government minister, Andrew Robb, to chaperone the Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop to Peru. She could have demanded real cuts in fossil fuels, supported the need for renewables and rowed back to Australia to eat into her own emissions, and it would have made no difference to the outcome. (Perhaps it would have embarrassed her Prime Minister, Tony Abbott – and perhaps not – nothing seems to embarrass him).

It may appear contradictory to suggest the last rhetorical flush we need is urgency. For sure, the state of the planet is desperate. Despite Minister Bishop claiming that Australia’s – no, the world’s – Great Barrier Reef is in fine shape, reputable scientists have warned us, time and time again, that the reef is in a dire situation. One that may well result in its death. I could go one here about other aspects of urgency: around clean air, contamination of waterways, drought, increasingly ferocious weather events, etc. etc. Oddly, perhaps, I do not think talk of urgency and panic get us anywhere. The language may provoke some to action, and I applaud this. Action is vital. But many run in fear, bury their heads in the proverbial sand and do nothing. This mood of panic has been strategically exploited by the Abbott government in Australia, and other administrations around the globe.

Urgency is the language that allows politicians to look busy-busy. I do not disregard that fact that there would be many present in Lima – NGOs, Indigenous groups, and members of government themselves – with a genuine brief to create something of substance. But we need more of an outcome than another piece of paper being thrust at us; while paradoxically, real change to deal with climate change moves at glacial speed. (Although, I suppose, glaciers are moving a little more quickly these days?)

However desperate our situation has become, we need to act with patience, not panic. It is the only means by which change of substance will eventuate. Consequently, I have been thinking more about the ways in which Indigenous engagement with land and a philosophy of environment and ecology may provide both an intellectual and scientific way forward for us. (I did mention this on occasion on my recent ‘European tour’, with little response. I think that most people in Europe, like white Australia, relegate Aboriginal knowledge to the status of romantic folklore, at best.)

I was speaking to a friend recently, talking about the practice of ‘soft eyes’, used by some Indigenous communities in Australia (and I would think worldwide) in seeing the land. I am not qualified to go into the intricacies of the practice. It would be both foolish and disrespectful to attempt to articulate the cultural and intellectual value of ‘soft eyes’ here. But I do feel qualified to respond to what I regard as the wide cultural lesson to be learned. ‘Soft eyes’ is a way of looking at land, and sky, and water in a way that refuses to focus on a single object or site. By seeing nothing with detailed specificity, one is able to engage more fully with the whole. Another aspect of ‘soft eyes’ is that it takes patience and time, to both learn the technique and respond adequately to what one is actually seeing.

After Lima there will be Paris, and who knows after that. I haven’t checked my schedule. But, in the words of an Aboriginal elder and poet of the nineteenth century, ‘we all become bones … all of us’. There is a holistic reality in these simple words. And a lesson for each of us. We … 

Tony Birch

The Future of the World’s Climate vs. YOLO

COP20 fot. unfccc flickr.com CC

COP20 fot. unfccc flickr.com CC

„The international community has set itself the goal of preventing a 2 degrees Celsius increase in the average temperature compared to the pre-industrial era” – We read in report from the climate summit in Lima, Peru. „Not a single country has done enough to prevent dangerous climate change, which by the end of the 21st century can result in an increase of global temperature by 2 degrees Celsius” – emphasize the authors of „The Climate Change Performance Index 2015” report, which assesses the progress of 58 countries surveyed in the reduction of CO2 emissions. The fact that the first three spots in the ranking remained empty is telling. None of the countries was placed on the podium in the race to stop an impending climate disaster.

Riddle: Will the international community reach its goal?
Answer: Hehe.

Riddle: What is the international community made of, since no country has not done enough?
Answer: Not of countries for sure.

In the end, if all countries agreed, they would have probably done something about it. On the other hand, it is not enough to just agree with something in order to actually get something done. I for example agree that one shouldn’t eat sweets before bedtime. And yet I do. Why do I expect the international community to be more reasonable than I am? My expectations don’t make sense.

It’s not without a reason that our Ministry of Environment Protection, Natural Resources and Forestry changed it’s name to Ministry of Environment. Not only is it shorter, but it also reflects reality better. The environment can no longer be protected, all that’s left is to managing it’s degradation. And it would look kind of silly if the Minister of Environment Protection showed up at the celebration of Barbórka (4 December, St. Barbara’s Day – the patron saint of miners). And yet, he shoud show up (as he does), because in the end the coal industry has a significant impact on the environment. Although not exacly on protecting it. Some, admittedly, mock the Minister of the Environment for appearing in a miner’s outfit at the miners celebration pointing out it’s a bit as if the Minister of Health spoke at a  a tobacco industry conference, dressed up as a cigarette. But after all, we live in a country where the ex Minister of Health and todays Prime Minister is a cigarette addict, who actively fought against the ban on smoking in public places, and now she fights so that the energy prices won’t rise, even by a grosz (smallest coin in Poland, equivalent of USD 0.0030 and EUR 0.0024 at 14 December 2014), which in Poland implies huge public donations for otherwise bancrupting mines. Contradictions, contradictions, contradictions. Life is full of them.

I’m sitting in the mountains in a house I inherited after my grandparents, watching my uncle who labouriously turns off radiators before leaving. I know I should too, but my electric bill is so low I often forget. Through my window I’ve watched snowmen melt. Yesterday you could still see two sad, dirty stumps. Today they’re gone. It used to be that in mid-December you could make snowmen so winter lovers must be dissapointed. Though there’s still hope for them. If the temperature drops below zero, snow cannons will be put into action. Let’s not dissapoint them. We are going to fight. We have cannons and we won’t hesitate to use them.

Yesterday I talked with my aunt. She says that we live in the age of decline. Something like the last period of the Roman Empire. For a moment we wondered, who will survive the collapse of civilization an what will come after it. But we didn’t come to any conclusions. So stopped complaining and turned on Charlie Kaufman’s „Adaptation”. When the main character was no longer able to cope with writing the scenario, he sougth help from a screenwriting guru, who told him that the most important thing in a movie is the last act. It’s what determines the reception of entire whole film. My aunt went to sleep before the movie ended, but she asked me to tell her in the morning what went on after she left. When I woke up I remembered her request but not for the world could I  remember how the movie ended. I ended up turning it on again just to see the ending. It ends stupidly so no wonder I forgot. The main character goes off, happy and hopeful.

Translation: Łukasz Kozak, Maja Rozbicka

Bishop Blows Hot Air

An unfortunate but accurate summary of Australian Foreign minister, Julie Bishop, and her performance in Lima. We may yet win the title of the dumbest government in the world. A ‘first world’ country with a ‘fifth world’ mentality.