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I'll be posting an announcement for The Melting Glaciers Road Show shortly.

Andy Caffrey


I just saw on ABC's Sunday morning political show a preview segment 
on the next issue of National Geographic, cover story, "Global 
Warning." What struck me was the fact that everything they pointed to 
was melting glaciers, plus pointing out the radical lake level drop 
of Lake Foul (Powell). They added the radical retreat of Peru's 
glacier (the largest in the tropics) and Denali to my list.


  Lance wrote:
What a pity it would be if National Geo's cover story on global 
warming turned out to be a story of melting glaciers.  It is 
ultimately going to be so very much more than that. In the real 
world, there will always be many things going on at once and, to 
paraphrase Carville-Clinton, "It's the interactions, stupid."

Truth is, I even squirm when the overloading of the atmosphere with 
CO2 is treated solely as a story of global warming. It ain't.

Global warming is an 800 lb. gorilla, to be sure, and it would be 
swinging heavy clout if it was the only kid on the block. But it 
isn't. The excess CO2 story is also a story of significant loss of 
nutrient supply in vegetation, with multiple reverberations through 
an already shaky food web.

When experiments flood air with CO2, some plant species grow fast 
(at the expense of others), but the fast-growing greens offer less 
nutrition per unit of plant tissue, and everything that eats them 
(so far, experiments have covered a variety of species all the way 
from caterpillars to domestic sheep) suffer the consequences. So, 
translating the CO2 story into only a hotter-planet story is 
another classic instance of a big story broken down into parts.  To 
it, add the impact that warming will have on the stratospheric ozone 
shield.  Etc, ad nauseum. And it will be the interactions of all 
this stuff that packs the biggest punch. Think cumulative effect, on 
the appropriately grand scale.

  And yet we constantly see our young activists told to "Get 
focused," as if there was no hope of their taking up the cause of 
integrated analyses. The upshot? Successive generations brought into 
the mold of the proverbial drunk looking for his lost car keys under 
a streetlight, not because that's where he or she lost them, but 
only because that's where the light is. This is not a path to 
ecological literacy.  And National Geo editors know better than to 
perpetuate it.


Hi Lance,

Some clarification. I have not seen the Nat Geo, and have no idea if 
the story is mostly about melting glaciers (I think it won't be). It 
was the 30-second ABC segment about the magazine's cover story that 
used all of the glaciers and Lake Foul imagery.

I don't believe we can use "integrative analysis" as a starting 
point. Your target audience is too small. We have to step back and 
ask ourselves, how do we plan to implement change? Do we plan to use 
the democratic process somehow, or to say fuck that, let's overthrow 
the state? Well, essentially we've all chosen the first of those, if 
only because Americans are so far away from being able to wrestle 
power from the plutocracy.

So then you have to ask, well how do we best utilize the "democracy 
process"? Or how do we use international law? I can see only two 
ways: 1) you get the current politicians to vote for the right 
programs, 2) you throw out those politicians and you get elected a 
large enough batch of new, scientifically-educated (deep ecologists), 
uncorrupted ones, that they develop and implement new conversion 
programs. Congress passes laws, so by definition, using them or any 
other "democratic process" is going to be about laws that restrict 
and programs that create.

There's also the hippie back-to-the-land movement type of 
evolutionary approach, but that takes too long.

Then you have to look at the urgency and order of magnitude of the 
problem (e.g. how much does society have to change to avert what 
problems and by when?) Of course, we don't have a true answer to 
that. The only true answer is very likely that it is already way too 
late. We're seeing the Arctic ice cap retreat-and therefore the 
inevitable increase in solar radiation absorption at the north 
pole-and the feedback loops of Arctic tundra melting to such an 
extent that I can't see how those can be stopped unless humongous 
changes are made very, very soon, and we are very, very lucky. If 
they aren't stopped, then they are just going to trigger all of the 
other interactions you are referring to, the collapse of Earth's life 
support systems. So where does this leave us?

In my opinion, it leaves us with the situation that we have to retool 
industrial society in a ten-year period, and we have to get down to 
emissions releases 20% of what they are now (for the U.S). That 
requires the greatest war effort in world history (aka a domestic 
Marshall Plan). And that requires getting masses of Americans 
involved, not just numbers comparable to the number of all the people 
who have ever considered themselves deep ecologists or Earth 
First!ers, and been willing to learn the ecology of old growth 
forests, over-grazing, and the like.

Now this doesn't preclude the more complicated interactions kind of 
education. But you have to keep in mind that almost all of us hard 
core activists take for granted our ability to look into the 
apocalypse and not faint or high tail it away from the reality. Look 
at how many religious people, no matter what facts you present them, 
won't abandon their God hallucinations. These are soul-rattling 
situations we face. I know from suffering post-traumatic stress 
disorder that when you are in a fight-or-flight mode  your brain 
chemistry changes, redirecting chemical resources away from your 
cortex to your limbic system. That results in thinking capabilities 
that are radically dimmed. Fear will get in the way of people 
learning much of what we know.

So we can't just presume that we can somehow educate people into a 
very complicated science, meteorology, to the extent that they feel 
confidant in pressuring their politicians, and then rely on this 
method as our strategy for change. We just won't get the numbers we 
need, out of the pool of people who are knowledgeable, confidant and 
angry enough to toss the politicians out or get new ones in. Somehow 
we have to get millions of people into this battle NOW!

So I believe that these melting glaciers are our clear cuts.That's 
the reason for the Melting Glaciers Road Show. Compare it to most of 
the rain forest road shows you may have seen, like John Seed's. The 
problem isn't the destruction of the rain forests. The problem is 
really the development model, because the same model is destroying 
every other terrestrial ecosystem, all of the world's fisheries, and 
creating climate destabilization and other horrendous changes in our 
atmosphere. I've been working with groups to fight that development 
model for over 20 years, and it is only with the Seattle WTO protests 
that the "analyzing interactions" kind of understanding was in enough 
heads that a large scale protest like that could happen. But they are 
only just beginning! They haven't changed anything yet! Not one 
country has changed it's development model because of protesters. And 
I would suggest to you, Lance, that learning climate science is at 
least as complicated as learning about neo-liberalism and all of the 
institutions of globalization.

So we have to get people going in our campaign way before the vast 
majority of them have developed a comprehensive understanding of all 
of the complicated interactions of climate destabilization (I hate 
the term "global warming" too, and only use it as a starting point to 
educate people about climate destabilization). To do that we need to 
have the equivalent of photos of clear-cuts, over-grazing damage, 
etc. But it's kind of hard to show people a photo of melting tundra 
or mineral depleted soil.

We need now things that grab people viscerally. Things that will get 
them to form RAN-like Climate Action Groups right now, and that once 
they are in those groups, committed to the work like the best of 
Earth First!ers and other conservation biologist activists, they 
begin an ongoing process of learning more and more about the complex 
interactions you and I are concerned about. [And heck, not all 
climate activists have to emphasize the same thing. There can be 
different kinds of road shows, trainings, etc.] Right off they can 
use the glaciers and whatever else they can grab-changes in growing 
seasons, more and worse hurricanes and tornadoes, floods, droughts, 
etc.-to begin the pressure politics now. Also, like watching the 
progress of Hurricane Charley, or knowing the tiny percentage of 
ancient forests left, or rain forest remaining, watching glaciers 
retreat is something to keep an eye on, to keep them engaged over a 
period of time. It's just a hook. A very big hook, because if any one 
of the worst melting scenarios happens, it's all over.

Only a minority needs to have a comprehensive knowledge of the 
complex interactions of climate destabilization. Like with the 
Headwaters Forest campaign. Despite a lot of losses, we did save the 
3,000-acre grove, and we did it because 10s of thousands of people 
got involved. And I bet only a few hundred of those had a complex 
understanding of forest ecology. But it was up to that minority to 
provide leadership, not to educate every one of the tens of 
thousands, to an undergraduate level understanding of forest ecology 
or conservation biology. It was up to them to be guides, to prepare 
fact sheets, to develop strategies and plan actions, and yes, develop 
training programs, so that it's easier for the wage slave's, full 
time mom's and urban dwellers to step in at the key times and add 
their weight to the process.

Of course, we always have to educate as far and wide and as 
comprehensively as we can manage. It's just that we can't wait for 
that knowledge to become widespread before we develop large-scale 
campaigns, and we can't develop campaigns that are dependent upon 
everyone agreeing about all of the complexities of climate 

For updates and info, contact scott at planttrees dot org.