The Happiness Game

“The essence of the philosophy of Gross National Happiness is the peace and happiness of our people and the security and sovereignity of our nation”

The Centre For Bhutan Studies,

There’s  not much good news for a climate activist these days, other than the awakening of indigenous people around the world as IdleNoMore goes global. Australia is showing the rest of us what we can expect from global climate change, as they live through a record-breaking heatwave. The heat wave Down Under is yet one more example of the climate destabilization that is staring all of us in the face, if only we could open our eyes and see. As Thomas Lovejoy, Professor of Science & Public Policy at George Mason University writes in today’s New York Times:

Environmental change is happening rapidly and exponentially. We are out of time. Only three generations back — in the same decade as the original scientific publication of the greenhouse effect — my great-grandfather chaired the commission that designed the New York subway system. How was he to anticipate the sea-level rise that contributed in part to the impact of Hurricane Sandy?

graphic: I Heart Climate Scientists
graphic: I Heart Climate Scientists

Here we are, on the brink of enormous, and painful change, yet most of us are sleepwalking as our train hurdles towards the cliff of ecosystem catastrophe. In an article in The Guardian today, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh: Only Love Can Save Us From Climate Change, the 86 yr old monk reflects on the lack of action over climate change, the destruction of ecosystems and the rapid rate of biodiversity loss:

“When they see the truth it is too late to act … but they don’t want to wake up because it may make them suffer. They cannot confront the truth. It is not that they don’t know what is going to happen. They just don’t want to think about it.

They want to get busy in order to forget. We should not talk in terms of what they should do, what they should not do, for the sake of the future. We should talk to them in such a way that touches their hearts, that helps them to engage on the path that will bring them true happiness; the path of love and understanding, the courage to let go. When they have tasted a little bit of peace and love, they may wake up.”

One of my response to the darkness of the news is to work on increasing my own personal gross happiness index. Once one has turned and confronted the difficult truth, it can be difficult not to be pulled down into an abyss of fear and despair; making oneself busy enough to forget the insanity is tempting although not possible (remember the red pill in The Matrix?).

Our eldest daughter is spending some time at home earning money and waiting for some clarity on her next life challenge. This fall she spent six weeks walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain, and recently shared how she and her companions helped each other through difficult times on the path by playing the “Happiness Game”. The game consists of taking turns remembering things, people, and situations that made each person happy.  So, on this minus 30 Celcius Monday (cold enough to warm a climate activist’s heart), here’s a few things that have made me feel happy and contented so far today. It turns out, as sages across the ages have told those who have ears to hear, that working on being truly present to the gifts we have every day, all around us, can be the key that unlocks the door out of our current unhappiness. And if Thich Nhat Hanh is right, once we step out of our fear and egoism:

…we can move beyond the idea that we are separate selves and expand our compassion and love in such a way that we take action to protect the Earth.

Today’s Happiness List:

  • I get such a feeling of satisfaction and of self-reliance by making my own yogurt. It makes me happy when a batch turns out, like this one did this morning:
Homemade Yogurt
Homemade Yogurt


  • Related but not quite the same, is making my own kefir that I use in baking and smoothies. The method is quite different (and simpler) than making yogurt so I make kefir more often.  In the photo below, the kefir grains have been strained out, and the liquid for drinking is in the measuring cup underneath. This morning I added kefir to the buckwheat apple pancakes that I made up for my family (and a shout out to my friend Suzanne for the awesome Christmas present of homemade pancake mix – it made me happy to be using this loving gift today).
kefir. jan.2013
Kefir – grains and liquid


What added to your happiness quotient today, as the U.S. celebrates Martin Luther King Day? I’d love to know.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

Australia Leads In Climate Fight, Passes Carbon Tax

Australia’s Senate passed a comprehensive carbon pricing scheme yesterday, to the applause of members of the public who were present. Australia is one of the world’s worst greenhouse gas emitters per capita because of its heavy reliance on abundant reserves of coal to generate electricity. The country is also on the front lines of climate change. Who can forget the horribly destructive Queensland floods in January of this year, or the wildfires in 2009 that killed hundreds and destroyed thousands of homes?

Like Citizens Climate Lobby, I believe that the easiest way to put a price on carbon pollution is a carbon fee and dividend bill, but I am definitely not going to slam this historic legislation, which is a huge step in the right direction. To read more about how carbon fee and dividend works, go to Building a Green Economy: The Economics of Carbon Pricing and The Transition To Clean, Renewable Fuels.

From The Guardian:

Australia’s parliament has passed landmark laws to impose a price on carbon emissions in one of the biggest economic reforms in a decade, giving fresh impetus to December’s global climate talks in South Africa.

The scheme’s impact will be felt right across the economy, from miners to LNG producers, airlines and steel-makers and is aimed at making firms more energy-efficient and push power generation towards gas and renewables.

Australia accounts for just 1.5% of global emissions, but is the developed world’s highest emitter per capita due to a reliance on coal to generate electricity.

Australia’s finance minister, Penny Wong, told the upper house Senate as she wrapped up the marathon debate:

Today marks the beginning of Australia’s clean energy future. This is an historic moment, this is an historic reform, a reform that is long overdue.”

Deutsche Bank carbon analyst Tim Jordan stated:

This is a very positive step for the global effort on climate change. It shows that the world’s most emissions-intensive advanced economy is prepared to use a market mechanism to cut carbon emissions in a low-cost way.”

More links:

Australian Senate Passes Carbon Tax

Building A Green Economy: The Economics of Carbon Pricing and The Transition To Clean, Renewable Fuels.

Australia Passes Carbon Tax On Big Polluters

Climate News: Carbon Pricing in Australia And Oil Orgies In Britain

Yesterday Australia took a huge step toward a clean energy economy and tackling climate change. The Australian House of Representatives passed the Government’s package of 19 bills setting up a carbon pricing scheme from July 1, 2012 by a vote of 74 to 72. Now that’s cause for celebration!


Meanwhile, some governments, including our own, haven’t connected the dots between acting on climate change and economic prosperity. Across the pond, UK Climate activists crashed a love-in between the UK & Canadian governments and the fossil fuel industry:

Protesters interrupted the Canada-Europe Energy Round table in London yesterday, to expose the UK government’s opposition to the European legislation that would label tar sands oil as highly polluting. The campaigners stripped down to Union Jack boxers and maple leaf underwear and covered each other with oil while kissing and groping in a provocative ‘oil orgy’.

We interrupted the Energy Round table today because the UK and Canadian governments’ flirtations are developing into friends with benefits. This seedy relationship puts profits for the oil industry and banks ahead of much needed legislation which will curb emissions from transport fuel in Europe,” said UK Tar Sands Network campaigner Emily Coats.


Since PM Cameron’s visit to Canada last month, the UK government has been echoing the position of the Canadian government that the EU is ‘unfairly discriminating’ against the Canadian tar sands. Contrary to Canada’s claims that the Fuel Quality Directive (FQD) will discriminate against the tar sands, the current FQD proposal also includes values for other unconventional oil feed stocks, such as shale oil .

 “The UK government is supporting sleazy Canadian lobbying efforts and today’s  Energy summit shows just how intimate they have become to promote the tar  sands industry,” said climate campaigner Peter Templeton.

Despite extensive lobbying by the Canadian government over the last year, last  Tuesday the European Commission announced its recommendation that tar  sands fuel should be assigned an accurate value in order to account for the  higher emissions caused by tar sands extraction.

A Canadian government body proved that tar sands extraction is very filthy, yet  the Harper government is increasing extraction of bitumen without full scientific  knowledge of the impacts on the local environment and the global climate,” said  Coats.

In the upcoming weeks the UK will continue to receive Canadian officials as Canada attempts to secure the UK as an ally to stall the FQD directive, which has already received extensive support from the EU commission. The controversial UK government support for the Canadian tar sands industry has received disapproval and outrage from UK climate activists, which shall escalate as the relationship deepens.

For more, go to Act For Climate Justice

Australia Steps Up Climate Fight, U.S. Republicans Step Back In Time

With the announcement yesterday of a new carbon tax proposal, Australia is set to become the world leader on addressing climate change. Right now, Australia leads the world in per-capita carbon pollution. The carbon tax, which has been described as “modest, riddled with exclusions, bribing voters and corporations“, is still the best national carbon plan in the world. It is expected to pass in both houses of parliament before the end of the year, but the Conservative opposition and the Australian coal industry seem determined to whip up public sentiment against the carbon tax (remember, Australia is where climate scientists have been receiving death threats and über-denier Monckton is invited back regularly ). Right now, polls indicate 60% of the population is opposed to carbon pricing, and Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Labor government is the most unpopular in 40 years. A lot is riding on the government’s ability to convince voters that it’s time to tackle climate change.

In the meantime, closer to home, U.S. Republicans, bowing to their tea party members, are set today to repeal legislation that promotes energy-efficient light bulbs, one that was signed into law by none other than President George W. Bush and is now embraced by industry. Sounds like the Mad Hatter’s tea party in Washington these days!

More Links:

Australia Carbon Tax Modest Beginning

Australia Steps Up Climate Fight, Unveils Sweeping Carbon Plan

Climate Scientists Angered By Denier’s Death Threat Campaign

Republicans Defend “Personal Liberty” in Fight To Ban Energy-Saving Lightbulbs

Carbon Fee and Dividend: Building a Green Economy