Solar Flares: Sugar-Free Facts

The seasons creep up on you in Cape Breton, but by the end of this week it’s hard to call the weather anything but springlike. That has given me plenty of opportunities to try out my new climate icebreaker: as strangers and acquaintances alike start their conversations with, “How d’ya like this weather, eh?” I grin and respond with, “Weather’s great. Climate sucks.”

Encouragingly, I tend to get kindred responses. If someone shows their concern, it provides an opening for me to list a few of the things I’ve been doing, or plan to do, in order to (a) reassure them that they’re not fighting the good fight solo, and (b) plant some ideas in their head for other initiatives they could take (or join).

The best exchange I had was with the lifeguard at my local pool. After I used that opening, he grew momentarily solemn, then said, “You know the hot weather is only happening because of one thing, right?” Internally, I braced myself for some blather about solar activity or chemtrails, but instead he concluded with, “Global warming.”

Yep, one thing. But it’s the biggest thing there is.

My Week in the Anthropocene

  • I held the third Climate Café last Saturday, at Doktor Luke’s as always. Eight people showed, mostly folks I knew but also mostly people who hadn’t come to previous Cafés, which meant lots of fresh perspectives. We talked mostly about how to respond when people say they can’t take action — because “I just don’t have the time,” or “I couldn’t imagine giving up X/Y/X,” or even “I don’t believe collective action will affect government policy.” Lots of great suggestions followed; I can’t list them all here, but if you find yourself struggling with these sorts of conversations, please email me and I’ll happily offer advice (Or else come to the next Café!).
  • I also returned to Memorial High School for another Blue Sky Heroes presentation. This time my audience were 12th graders who’d studied global geography, so instead of talking down to them, I asked them for their feedback: how could I improve the presentation in order to galvanize more students? Their chief comment: “Don’t sugar-coat it.” So, sugar-free facts when I return to high schools, hopefully in May (in the meantime, if you or somebody you know wants to visit high schools, email me for a copy of the script and PowerPoint).
  • I wrote an article about climate change symbolism in Game of Thrones. It doesn’t appear that the Cape Breton Post printed it, and since the final season begins this weekend, I don’t expect it’ll see the light of day. If you’re interested in this subject, here’s another article from the halcyon days of 2013.
  • I’m gearing up for the Extinction Rebellion protest action in Halifax on April 15. I’ll be carpooling down with a couple of new friends, and hopefully not getting arrested while I’m there. Either way, expect a full report next Friday.
  • Finally, I contributed my thoughts on solar installation to a CBC podcast (I start talking at 5:48), which prompted several encouraging responses and inquiries. I even got a cold call — a sweet old lady, calling “on behalf of her husband” to ask me whether she thought their home would be a good candidate for solar panels. I’ve read stating that getting panels can be a powerful impetus for others to get panels, and now I’m seeing the proof!

Solar Flares in a Warming World

  • My former employer (as of last week! — eep!), Cape Breton University, is installing 500 solar panels, generating up to 75 kW of energy for the local community (CBU itself is already energy-neutral).
  • It’s not just close to home, either. A report from the International Renewable Energy Agency claims that one-third of the world’s energy capacity now comes from renewable sources, including solar, wind, geothermal, and hydro. Most of the new green power sources come from Asia and Oceania, so it’s North America’s turn to catch up! Read highlights from the report here.
  • The National Pollinator Garden Network has exceeded their goal of 1 million registered pollinator gardens in the US and elsewhere. Pollinator gardens save bees and other insects whose species are endangered by global warming.
  • Around the world, school strikes for the climate continue, with parents adding their support through an open letter.

If You Read One Thing This Week About the Environment

  • Bill McKibben, co-founder of, sums up the current situation eloquently as always in this Guardian article.

And If You Want to Do Something?

  • If you live in Alberta, vote on April 16. Vote for a candidate with a real climate plan. And then hold them to their promises.
  • If you don’t live in Alberta, think of who you know who does. Email or call them (isn’t it time you caught up anyway?). Explain to them why this provincial election is the most important one in Alberta’s history. My wife and I straight-up begged our redneck relatives to vote NDP. But if the UCP win… well… at least I’ll be back here next week, rooting out the good news.

Stay strong! Shine bright!



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