Father’s Day 2017 is my second Father’s Day without my father. Life happens, we all lose loved ones – this is a fact and the circle of life. While these heartbreaking losses stay with us forever – the crushing, immediate and paralyzing hurt does fade.
In 2016 I wrote a post that was published in Elephant Journal, called “Climate Change & Cancer, The Long Goodbye.” The post drew parallels – using my personal experiences and thoughts – between the campaign to keep cigarettes in peoples hands and todays climate denial. By downplaying the clear links that 100’s of peer reviewed scientific studies showed between cigarette smoking and cancer, many people became addicted to cigarettes and experienced negative health impacts – including death. Many articles and studies have shown how the same tactics used to downplay linkages between cigarette smoking and cancer, are now playing out to cast doubt on our role in accelerating climate change. A small group of well-funded climate deniers has been raising doubt about the linkages between our use of fossil fuels and our heavy footprints on our planet and the exponential acceleration of climate change that threatens our species and all others species as well. These climate denier campaigns have been brewing for years, with success.
“I am still raging inside, shaking with anger. Raging against the disease that killed my father and raging against the political machinery that lets too many of our political candidates continue to publicly, vocally, and with authority deny the realities of climate change, raising doubt about our role in what is happening and thereby slowing down solutions and actions…. Our planet is showing us in a myriad of ways that it is critically sick and suffering. And every day, new scientific studies connect the dots between our way of life, our energy choices, our actions, and our changing climate—yet these studies are not translated into the necessary tough policies we need set us on a safe path.” My feelings last year, when things were still so raw for me on so many levels.
This year, my rage has subsided to a slow simmer, and my thoughts on this Father’s Day have moved to reflection and memories – of times well spent with my father and on building and growing my resolve. I feel strangely hopeful that we have turned a corner, our cards and those of our current Administration are “on the table.” In many circles we are moving to stronger and lasting solutions on climate change, in others, still farther away.
No, I haven’t drank any strange kool-aid, and yes, I do understand that we are at the edge of a cliff, but I feel our momentum has shifted to resolute and sustained action both in the United States and around the world. Here in the United States, it seems clear to me that we are publicly and visibly being asked to take sides, to look our children in their eyes, and tell them where we stand. If this isn’t obvious to all, then we must make it so. All our elected officials, and each of us must be clear on where we stand. Will we join with countries, cities, states, businesses, colleges and organizations around the world, who are loudly declaring they are “still in” moving forward with firm, immediate and sustained climate action – or not. From where I sit, the “moving forward side” is picking up speed and seems unstoppable.
Donald Trump and many in his Cabinet and inner circle have clearly and vocally staked their allegiance to coal, fossil fuels, big agriculture, limited environmental regulations coupled with a clear and loud amping up of the climate denial machine. But, I remain hopeful because each day I see push back to this message, and how this approach is being marginalized and side stepped. Clearly our democracy and the place of the federal government in it is being seriously challenged, but it has been for some time. What is more obvious to me is that climate change policy has more overtly become a partisan issue and divide. This is NOT okay and more and more people are pushing back. Now more then ever we must stand together with friends and family – whether, green, purple, blue, red, republican, democrat or independent – and declare loudly that climate change is real, here, now and caused by us, and yes, that we CAN do something about it.
My father’s death from cancer was directly linked to his years as a smoker; to be sure exacerbated by other conditions. Understanding the connections between cigarettes and cancer didn’t make it any less painful for our family or for my father – who showed us all how to live with dignity, honor and hope, even with the knowledge that death was knocking loudly at the door. As my father and our family grappled with the disease that killed him, we had our eyes wide open to the cause, but we did pin our hopes on prayer and on treatments not quite there. Prayer helped some of us feel stronger, and now almost two years after my father’s death, the immunotherapy drugs that might have extended his life are available and being widely used. Things can and do change quickly.
Climate change in it’s current manifestation is a problem of our making; one that has unfolded over years and will take years and lifetimes to resolve. But as we debate reality, and as climate denial is allowed to ferment, we are wasting time we can’t get back. Clearly, in this world of “Alternative Facts” post election, telling the truth has been put into question and the disease we have inflicted on our planet has a death grip on our human species.We know that this hasn’t happen overnight. And the easy thing would be to place blame solely on the current administration. But this isn’t an easy problem where we can point a finger to identify the cause, nor is there one or even a handful of solutions. There ARE a myriad of solutions, with room for us all to be involved.
So, my rambling message to all our Climate Mamas and Papas this Father’s Day, as we come together to celebrate our fathers, our brothers, our grandfathers – living and dead – is that we must stay hopeful, be reflective, and be intentional. Our ClimateMama mantra guides us: “Tell the truth, actions speak louder than words, don’t be afraid.” My father showed through his actions, how to live life this way. I strive each day to honor his memory and to follow his example.
A special thanks and shout out to all our Climate Papas for joining us on this journey and for giving us resolve and building our climate hope.
Happy Father’s Day Dad…I love you, I miss you and I think about you every day.
In hope and resolve,