Climate Change hits Millerton

Climate Change Activists in Rome. Photo from: This Changes Everything.

October 23, 2015-

Millerton has moved from proclaiming the dangers of climate change to doing domething about it.  On October 20 the Moviehouse showed This Changes Everything, a film based on the book of the same name by Naomi Klein.  It is an epic re-imagining of the challenge of climate change with action as its theme.   The movie was followed by a discussion led by Brooke Lehman and Gregg Osofsky of the  Watershed Center.

A large crowd seemed genuinely moved by the plight of the communities at the front lines of the climate change crisis.  They included the devastated lands caused by the mining in the Alberta Tar Sands, Hurricane Sandy’s ruthless destruction and the stifling smog of Beijing.  

Germany is called a success story.  It has switched 30% of its energy needs to solar and wind.  The county’s emissions have gone down, their economy is up, and citizens are now reaping economic benefits of their alternative energy investments.

The message of the movie is that collective action works; that the issues of climate change are only selectively reported; that a global economy based on growth without limits is no longer sustainable.  The hope is that climate change may be a teachable moment in human history and “our best shot at a better world” according to Brooke Lehman. 

Tom Morton of Sharon, CT, shared his impressions: “What impressed me was that the Watershed moderators did not preach to the audience but let the words and images of the film speak for themselves. I was impressed by the film and its global context".

The discussion not only raises the issue of the climate-related tragedies around the world but is framed by the upcoming conference on climate change in Paris, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11), otherwise known as “Paris 2015” from November 30th to December 11th.  The conference is critical because the world is counting on it to achieve consensus on an internationally-binding agreement on climate with the aim of keeping raising of global warming levels below 2° Celsius (3.6 degrees Farenheit) from levels in 1990.  If this is not achieved we risk reaching the threshold where global warming is irreversible if we have not already done so.

The onus of reaching a global agreement on climate change depends on the 190 nations coming to the table with the main charge on China, the United States and India, the three biggest polluters.

The previous international climate change conferences have been beset by issues between developed and developing countries and the unwillingness of the largest countries to agree on a threshold.  The Kyoto Protocol of 1997 set a goal of cutting worldwide emission by 5% of 1990 emissions, but the developing nations such as China were given no specific targets, and so emissions continued unabated. The U.S., then the biggest emitter, did not agree to the emissions standards either and thus the Protocol never became operable. 

The  goal is to get the countries representing at least 55% of global emissions to sign the protocol. 

So far the EU has promised to cut its emissions by 40% as compared to 1990 by the year 2030.  The U.S. has agreed to cut its emissions by 26% as compared to 2005 levels by 2025.  China has reduced coal power, increased solar and agreed to cap emissions by 2030 and India has just announced that it will source 40% of its electricity from renewables and non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.  They are the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases.  

When more than 300,000 people marched in New York City last year in the Peoples Climate march, they made history.  People from 47 states demanded immediate changes in U.S. climate change policies in their states after the event.

Large and small events are slowly changing public consciousness, but the U.S. Congress, world famous for its intentional backwardness, is expected to torpedo any agreement the President signs.  Mr. Morton of Sharon said: “I do not think anything will happen till China and the U.S. do something. This issue has a long way to go in gaining a majority. Humans seem to need a real crisis before anything gets done.”

L.J. Amsterdam and Walter Hergt of the Watershed Center handed out ribbons to participants to write on which she is taking to the Paris 2015: "The Climate Ribbon Project is an interactive art and storytelling ritual. Everyday people are invited to consider what they care about in the environment and hope to never lose to climate chaos and to write their concerns on a ribbon. These ribbons will come together in large-scale art installations in Paris as a way of bringing more voices into the climate conversations. Walter and I are very excited to bring the climate cares of our local community members to Paris with us."

Brook Lehman said after the discussion: "It has been totally heartening to experience the large turnouts at both screenings of "This Changes Everything" and the "Yes Men Are Revolting." It is clear to us that this community has a deep interest in finding local solutions to the climate crisis and we at the Watershed Center are excited about lending our skills and resources in any way we can to local efforts."   Carol Sadlon of the Moviehouse said: “Let’s start a climate change group in Millerton!”

A trailer for This Changes Everything can be seen here: