What I want for Mother's Day

      May is challenging for me, because I was never very good at sending birthday presents or holiday cards on time. In my family there are at least four birthdays and Mother's Day to anticipate. While I would rather mark the moment with a dinner or a walk or an adventure, I try to honor that others really do like a wrapped gift, and I try to be thoughtful – when I remember.
      Last Thursday was another significant day. Will it be remembered in the future? It was the day that the average daily level of carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, passed 400 parts per million (ppm). For perspective, the last time this happened was at least three million years ago – before humans. Greenland was forested. Sea levels were at least 60 feet higher*. Scientists tell us that 350 ppm is the safe level to sustain life and the climate as humans have known it**.

      I am at a loss. It's almost like I'm in a dream. Can this be really happening? 

      There was a picture in the paper this morning of two scientists in the Arctic, kneeling at the edge of an ice shelf and reaching into the open water. The article was about the competition among major international powers for the rights to control these increasingly open waters. Why the competition? Everybody wants access to – get this – the oil and gas stores previously untappable under the ice. Global warming is creating conditions that allow us to extract more fossil fuels that will further contribute to global warming. We are like an addict drinking or shooting up to stop the pain of the addiction.
      I would rather pretend this news is not real, and just go about my business. But I think I must look it straight in the eyes, and make a choice. How do I confront the path ahead: with fear, anger, and guilt (the negative energies) or with love, hope, and opportunity (the positive energies)? The negatives can be very motivating: “be part of the change, or we'll all suffer”. Hurricane Sandy woke a lot of people up. But that energy is not sustainable, and our human tendency is to give up, and return to business as usual. The positives, on the other hand, are sustainable, and very powerful. Look at parenting: we don't raise children because we're afraid of letting them die, we raise them because we love them, and hope for their future.
      Well, I love the earth. I love the amazing way it works so perfectly to support life. I love the beauty of the sky, the smells after a rain, hearing a catbird in the morning, the colors of flowers you buy at the grocery store, the taste of garden corn. I love the people of the earth; I know this because my heart aches when I learn about suffering.
      And I also see hope and opportunity in switching from fossil fuels to innovations in new clean energy technologies. There is money to be made here. Why do we stay addicted to the very technology that is killing us? If it's the lure of wealth, then we need to change the source of opportunity for that wealth.
      My family has done the things that we as individuals were told to do to contribute to the climate change solution. We did energy audits on our house and followed the recommendations. We have a hybrid electric car. We even put solar hot water and PV panels on our roofs. We could do more, and we will. But what I have learned is that the problem is bigger than what we volunteers can address.
      Change needs to happen within the major institutions of our society. We need government – town, state, federal, and international governments – to commit to clean energy in practice and policy immediately. We need the world of business to do the same, to stop drinking the koolaid, stop leaning in to the lure of oil and gas, wake up from the dream, and see a real future fueled by the sun, wind and clean technologies we haven't even developed yet.
      And there is one more major institution that can be part of the the positive energy of change: Parenting. Every government official, every business person is somebody's child. This is what I want for Mother's Day: I want every mother to tell her adult child that she doesn't need a card or a toaster or flowers flown in from another continent to honor her. Let's tell our children, our adult children, what we really want: we want them to divest from fossil fuel investments, change their business models, stop voting for short term economic fixes, and instead invest in clean energy, steer their businesses to a triple bottom line model (profit, people, planet), and vote for incentives for clean energy generation with long term economic rewards.
      Maybe the mothers of the world can do what the others haven't.
      The time is now. The need is real. Let's make this Mother's Day a beginning of the real change. And that means no gas grills for Father's Day. Do they make solar-powered ones?