Buffalo New York, shining city by the lake.
Buffalo New York, shining city by the lake.

GreenWatch: Our (Local) Climate Emergency

by / Nov. 28, 2015 10am EST

This week marks the beginning of the United Nations Paris Climate Summit, also known as the Conference of the Parties 21 (COP21). Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

We have written about this here, here, here, and here

We have also created a facebook page WNY ClimateWatch. If you are on facebook find us and like us for daily news and information links

On Saturday night November 28, the Rise Up for Climate Justice Coalition, a project based in the Sierra Niagara Group and strongly supported by the Western New York Environmental Alliance, will hold an event at Temple Beth Zion, 815 Delaware, Buffalo, 5:30-8:30pm.  This coincides with the international November 28 Day of Action which focuses on “bold action on climate change, good jobs, justice, and clean energy for all.” 

The event is organized around on the local Sierra Niagara Campaign’s initiative to encourage local groups, individuals, and elected leaders to sign a “Climate Justice Pledge”. This event is designed to release this signed document, send it on its way to the Paris Conference where it is hoped that it will be noted by the folks that are there. More importantly, and was the intention of this campaign to bring attention to the COP21 Climate Summit and some of its issues to the people and leaders of our area.

According to the press release for this event  

“The Climate Justice Coalition, comprised of environmental and faith based groups, unions, peace and social justice organizations, is gathering to ceremonially present the Climate Justice Pledge to a group of UB Law Students and local religious leaders who are attending the event in Paris. They will personally deliver it to officials participating in the talks, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, Michael Brune and president, Aaron Mair.” 


Program Description

-Welcome & Haudensaunee Thanksgiving Prayer  Agnes Williams, Indigenous Women’s Network

-Climate Change Impacts:  Losing the Earth and Speaking our Hopes (All participate).

-Sending our Voices to Paris:

Ceremonial passing of the Climate Justice Scroll containing over 2000 signatures of Western New Yorkers to UB Law Students and Faith Groups going to Paris Talks.  Speakers: Dr Othman Shibly, Dr. Surjit Singh, Ms Sue Tannehill, Mr Faizan Haq, Sister Sharon Goodremote, Sandy Chelnov, Shirley Chan, Debbie Hayes, Margaret Wooster.

-Beginning a Vigil and Community Fast during Paris Talks

-FEASTING – A meal to share  

If you have a chance, come along TONIGHT to the event and meet the local folks that have organized this.



Climate Emergency? The house is burning down!

We have often referred to the great chronicler of climate change Dr. Guy McPherson, who first introduced the concept and consequences of self-reinforcing feedback loops as a factor of climate change, and associated with things like melting polar ice and methane releases years ago.

Nature Bats Last

McPherson and others have advocated that the world is in the grasps of a great collapse and that the extinction or near extinction of the human race is at hand. Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about this in her 2013 book, “The Sixth Extinction, an Unnatural History”    

Over the years GreenWatch has  extensively covered the collapse of ecosystems, the resulting wars and strife, starvation and poverty, and the probably collapse of our economic systems that depend on the continued eviseration of the planets natural resources.

In this short video David Suzuki discusses the economic practices associated with “externalizing” the costs to society and the environment of extraction of natural resrouces. These costs are avoided by the profit taker and are born by the humans and the living planet. Externalizing these costs allows the bottom line of profit to be padded exponentially.



Media frenzy based on profit, not education or enlightenment

If you have spent anytime in the past few weeks experiencing local and national media you have been inundated with the shopping fever involving Black Friday, and the many many many opportunities to go out and spend your hard earned dollar on everything from the local malls and neighborhood shopping districts to the Festival of Lights and the Canalside excitements. This of course all carefully scripted with dramatic and endless breaking news stories about the political idiocracy and the wars and violence that have been generated by the media frenzy. We all deserve a break today so if the carefully scripted “bad” news depresses you, go out and shop.

That is the message. The medium is the massage

You will probably not hear a lot about the COP21 Conference and if you do, it probably wont give you much of an understanding of the issues, strategies, and a deeper understanding of what is at stake.  In some ways it is too complex or not suitable for mainstream media reports which includes national and local media outlets.  Mostly that is because these talks and the media are ruled by an economic agenda that is more about characterizing and defending unfettered economic growth and not about protecting the environment.  Environemental issues, including and especially the collapse of ecosystems due to the economic system’s mandate to treat the social and environmental costs of for instance, deforestation of the amazon, turning the oceans into a sewer and garbage dump, and even legalizing the continued dumping of carbon into the world’s systems as “externalities” will not be a highly covered or very critically dissected issue. That is reason enough to go to the Rise Up For Climate Justice gathering and sign on for the fight.


A War on Christmas?

Of course our shopping and consumerist habits are the anchor of climate change. Cheap products with no acknolwedged responsiblity toward the environment or the labor that creates them has driven us down a rabbit hole with possibly no escape. The result of COP21 could be the pouring of gasoline down the rabbit hole. What will spark it?

Recent headlines sponsored by corporate media interests cry out “Pope Declares War on Christmas.” In a speech at a Mass that he performed in mid-November, the Pope said that Christmas “will be a charade this year because the world is at war.” 

A little context here is important.

The Pope’s June 2015 Encyclical targeted the capitalist economic system as the real engine behind climate change. This Pope recognizes that the profoundly damaging economic system that we have exported to the world is what is driving climate change. Why are we not bringing this discussion to the head table?

For instance, It is argued around the world that the world is at war because of US energy policy.  You do not hear that discussion very much around here. You want to talk about that? I can hook you up with a conversation.

It is important to note that a move to a renewable energy society, which is the principle reason d’etre and focus of the local and national Rise Up for Climate Justice movements, is a fundamental no brainer -if we are to save ourselves.  However, it is also important to note that this is just a step toward both recognizing our problems and finding solutions that will give any future generations a planet, a quality of life, and hope. 

How we make and take resources for energy is important of course, but how we use the energy that we create, and the focus on consumerism and economic growth both locally and across the globe as the standard decision making tool by governments and the COP21is a fundamental part of the problem. This system has led to the greatest failure of free-market capitalism, that being climate change. You wont be hearing much about that.

During the past week at least two important pieces were published in the alternative media world.  These pieces by a couple of our best thinkers and writers address some of the issues discussed in today’s column.  They are writing about you and I, our children and neighbors, and our future. If you end up going to the Rise Up for Climate Justice event, you might consider bring your thoughts about these articles and try to find someone to talk with about them.


“Will Paris Climate Talks Be Too Little or Too Late? “Dhahr Jamail Truthout,  23 November 2015

Dhahr Jamail is a brilliant investigative journalist, anti-war correspondent and author of books and numerous articles posted at  This article points out just how far-reaching the ongoing catastrophe of climate change has gone. It is fast moving, unstoppable and, although it is a tough sell in Buffalo, an emergency that may cost humans the ability to survive on planet earth.

He writes:

“During the first week of December, delegations from nearly 200 countries will convene in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) climate conference. It has been billed, like the last several, as the most important climate meeting ever. The goal, like that of past COPs, is to have governments commit to taking steps to cut carbon dioxide emissions in order to limit planetary warming to within 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial temperature baseline.

Yet this is a politically agreed-upon limit. It is not based on science.

Renowned climate scientist James Hansen and multiple other scientists have already shown that a planetary temperature increase of 1 degree Celsius above preindustrial baseline temperatures is enough to cause runaway climate feedback loops, extreme weather events and a disastrous sea level rise.

Furthermore, the UK meteorological office has shown that this year’s global temperature average has already surpassed that 1 degree Celsius level.

Well in advance of the Paris talks, the UN announced that the amount of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere has locked in another 2.7 degrees Celsius warming at a minimum, even if countries move forward with the pledges they make to cut emissions. Hence, even the 2 degree Celsius goal is already unattainable. However, similar to the way in which national elections in the United States continue to maintain the illusion that this country is a democracy, and “We the People” truly have legitimate representation in Washington, DC, illusions must be maintained at the COP21.

Thus, the faux goal of 2 degrees Celsius continues to be discussed. Meanwhile, the planet burns.”


“States of Terror” Chris Hedges, TruthDig, November 22, 2015

Chris Hedges is a Presbyterian Minister, journalist, and activist author that was a part of a group of New York Times reporters that was awarded the 2002 Pulitizer Prize for the papers coverage of global terrorism. He is a senior fellow at The Nation,  a columnist for Truthdig. He has written War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning (2002); Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle (2009), Death of the Liberal Class (2010), the New York Times best seller, written with cartoonist Joe Sacco, Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt (2012), and his most recent Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt (2015).

In this Truthdig article Hedges writes;

“We waded into conflicts in the Middle East we did not understand, propelled forward by fantasy. And our folly spawned a death spiral of political, social and economic collapse, widespread poverty, massive displacement, misery and radical jihadism.”


“All the major candidates for president, including Bernie Sanders, along with a media that is a shameless echo chamber for the elites, embrace endless war. Lost are the art of diplomacy, the ability to read the cultural, political, linguistic and religious landscape of those we dominate by force, the effort to dissect the roots of jihadi rage and violence, and the simple understanding that Muslims do not want to be occupied any more than we would want to be occupied.

Another jihadi terrorist attack in the United States will extinguish what remains of our anemic and largely dysfunctional democracy. Fear will be even more fervently stoked and manipulated by the state. The remnants of our civil liberties will be abolished. Groups that defy the corporate state—Black Lives Matter, climate change activists and anti-capitalists—will be ruthlessly targeted for elimination as the nation is swept into the Manichean world of us-and-them, traitors versus patriots. Culture will be reduced to sentimental doggerel and patriotic kitsch. Violence will be sanctified, in Hollywood and the media, as a purifying agent. Any criticism of the crusade or those leading it will be heresy. The police and the military will be deified. Nationalism, which at its core is about self-exaltation and racism, will distort our perception of reality. We will gather like frightened children around the flag. We will sing the national anthem in unison. We will kneel before the state and the organs of internal security. We will beg our masters to save us. We will be paralyzed by the psychosis of permanent war.”


Local Solutions?

So today, on the cusp of COP21 we have a lot to think about in Western New York.

Some leaders amongst us think that we still have to avoid the concept of speaking out loud about our climate emergency. They don’t want you to be “scared”.  I want you to be scared. Please. Our house is burning down and we need to act.

This climate emergency is inextricably related to a cultural and economic emergency that threatens the future of our community and of humanity.  This includes our social fabric, the conditions of our natural resources, and our economy. It is here, and it is not going away.

Some would argue that humans are on this earth to solve problems. So far it seems we are just getting in deeper and deeper into the inextricable rabbit hole.

If we are to listen to people like Dhamir Jamahl and Chris Hedges, anything we do may be too little and too late. Maybe. Certainly the COP21 agenda is run by economic priorities that are more about creating wealth for the few than it is about creating a sustainable planet and society for the many. When these talks fail to address the problems that they are pretending to address, it will become more and more clear that we have to take the issues into our own hands.  This means that our local leadership including those of you that have signed the Climate Justice  Pledge have to step up to the plate. This does involve a lot of work, changes in our thinking and actions,  and a huge effort to move forward to a more critical thinking context. After 3 decades of dalliance, isnt it clear that it requires more than changing your light bulbs. We can do better.

We appreciate and support the folks that are providing leadership here including those that are behind the Rise Up For Climate Justice Campaign. We urge them to continue to wake up every day with optimism and move forward. But, and this is huge, this movement is too small. Perhaps this is because the movements objectives are very conservative, cautious, and struggling to be relevant to the prescribed economic life memes in 2016. This is delusional. We have to rethink and re-engineer the economic status quo.   The inconvenient truth is that we have no real plan to deal with climate change it here in WNY, except of course to change the way we produce energy. So, you know, we can protect jobs.  Fasten your seatbelts because jobs as we know them are likely to become obsolete in the not to distant future. Justice as we know it will soon take a dark turn. Just listen to the political campaigns that are purportedly the bedrock of our democracy.

Don’t buy into arguments that we need to create more energy and grow the economy in order to survive and or improve quality of life.  That is a dead end and we can see the onrushing train at the other end of the tunnel.  How about we can  locally with a comprehensive Climate Disaster Preparedness Plan that includes economic risk assessments focused on cultural and environmental sustainability. We need to go beyond energy. It is worth taking a look at, talking about, and trying to find our way through this emergency.  Its not impossible to figure out how to do it. Developing his blueprint could engage a wide community of activists including citizens, elected officials, businesses and organizations. We have a lot of very smart people here and its time to unleash our collective brainpower.

And, during this holiday season, don’t go out and buy a lot of cheap stocking stuffer shit from third world economies where many of the products that we consume are made by slaves and child laborers.  This is not a war on Christmas. This is in fact a commitment to saving ourselves in this time of great emergency.  Love your friends and family, gift giving is a nice act of love- but don’t overdue it with the cheap crap. Climate change is you, and your buy-in to this consumerist system is a big part of the problem.


More Resources

Climate Deception Dossiers”, Union of Concerned Scientists

Seeking a sustainable future-Climate change is an emergency”, Buffalo News Sunday Viewpoints Cover, Jay Burney, December 2012

“Is Climate Change Rampaging our Planet”, Investigative Post, Dan Telvock January 11, 2013