Behaviour change, Sustainability

Vast, majestic and ever changing

In October 2016, my partner and I spent several wonderful days hiking in three of Southern Utah’s parks. Each offered a special geological wonderland to explore. Layers of sedimentary rock were formed over millions of years when today’s inland desert region was under water. About 13 million years ago, the sea bed was uplifted to form a series of plateaux broken by fault lines. Over the centuries, water and wind have sculpted exposed rock layers of varying hardness and mineral content into fantastic formations in rich shades of red, purple, yellow and white.

Bryce Canyon features giant rock amphitheatres lined by mazes of pinnacles nicknamed “hoodoos.” True to native Paiute legend, they look like weird creatures which have been turned to stone, standing as sentinels over the passage of time. Along the trails snaking from the rim down to the floor, we saw trees and shrubs adapted to harsh conditions, anchored on exposed sandstone hillsides or thrusting upward toward the light between steep rock walls. We marveled at how some trees become eerily twisted when they die slowly in portions as their roots are exposed. On the Peekaboo Trail, we randomly asked a passing couple to take our photo and discovered they were from Auckland. Facing the maze of spires, I understood why Ebenezer Bryce, the Mormon pioneer for whom the park was named, referred to the landscape as “a hell of a place to lose a cow.” We lingered in a cold wind to watch the sunset from the rim. A nearby chipmunk appeared to do the same, perched at the very tip of a tree root jutting out over the chasm. …


Personal sustainability: The undoing of overdoing

I am a Person Who Does Too Much.

I know I am not alone. There is a whole industry producing self-help books, meditations and page-a-day calendars for people like me. I have them all sitting on my shelf without enough time to read them.

The pattern of overdoing was set very early in life in response to fear which proved very adaptable. In elementary school, my fear was rejection by my teachers. In junior high, my fear became not getting into college. I started studying for college entrance exams years early and stressed over every assignment. By high school, the fear extended to not earning a scholarship. College was then dominated by the fear of losing that scholarship. By the time I graduated, the fear had become job insecurity in a bad economy. As my career has matured, the fear has shifted to failing to make a real difference. Throughout my life, overdoing was supposed to deliver security. Of course, it never has.

Naturally I sought out a career that was custom made for overdoing: climate change policy. Here is a problem of monumental proportions with potentially devastating consequences and practical solutions with obvious co-benefits which society is largely ignoring in a form of global self-sabotage. Overdoing to the rescue! For the past 20 years, my work has been fascinating, rewarding and totally exhausting. I joke that my life would be just fine if only I had an extra twelve hours in the day. But even that would never be enough.

Climate change, New Zealand, Sustainability

New Zealand’s Climate Reality: My speech in Town Hall in April 2013

Climate Reality Logo Small 3On 29 April 2013, I gave a public Climate Reality presentation in the Council Chambers in Wellington Town Hall.  The presentation was supported by Wellington City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council and Sustainability Trust.  Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown opened the presentation, and Dr James Renwick from Victoria University contributed his technical expertise to the session on questions and answers.  I am very grateful for everyone’s support.

Below are the speech notes that were my personal contribution to the core presentation designed by former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore under The Climate Reality Project.

I see a need for us to start a conversation. This conversation is a courageous conversation. It is a conversation about how we can meet the needs of New Zealanders by taking action on climate change. I believe that if we pass up the opportunities that are in front of us today, we will seriously regret that loss. After nearly 20 years of working on these issues, I have never been more concerned than I am today about the choices that we are making without being conscious of their true cost. I have also never been more certain – or more excited – about how much we stand to gain by seizing these opportunities and how important it is for us to do more now. …

Climate change, Sustainability

Welcome to the Silver Lining climate change blog!

The start of a journey

You are invited to join me on a journey to find the silver lining as the global community confronts climate change. I don’t know what this journey will look like, but I know in my heart I need to make it and I cannot make it alone.

I have been working on climate change issues since 1992, when I was in college. I majored in biology and French, but the Rio Earth Summit was in the news and I took a course on the geology of climate change and another where I studied Earth in the Balance by Al Gore and The End of Nature by Bill McKibben. I followed up with a course surveying US environmental policy and that did it. I got hooked by the mystery of how the world was going to change the course of politics, economics, technology and human behavior to deal with this enormous problem. That drew me into a career in climate change policy that has taken me from Washington, DC to Wellington, New Zealand in search of solutions. …

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