by, Sheldon Cohen
My name is Sheldon Cohen. I have a type of cancer called leukemia. Our planet also has a cancer - it’s called climate change. During my 35 years working on environmental conservation all over the world, I’ve witnessed firsthand dying coral reefs, burnt-over forests, and dried up lakes - due in part to climate change. And I’ve witnessed people suffering from the early impacts of climate change. These realities have shaken the very foundations of my life and have inspired a recent decision to dedicate my remaining years to the fight against climate change.
Teaming up with my son (Zachary), through creative actions, videos, original songs, public speaking, and reducing our own carbon footprints, we intend to catalyze climate action by harnessing the power of compassion.
Regardless of ideology, political party or other labels, as members of the human family, we all feel compassion for the suffering of people currently impacted by climate change. We feel compassion when we realize that climate change could harm our children, grandchildren, and future generations. We can also feel compassion for the impacts climate change is having on the natural world and other life on Earth. This heart-based approach, with compassion building bridges and bringing us together, draws on my 20+ years of Buddhist practice. Working together, as part of the growing climate change movement, we can achieve our shared vision: Soon To Be, Carbon Free.
In May, Sheldon started a Facebook group called Catalyzing Climate Action. He welcomes new members and connections to other individuals and groups, especially youth-led initiatives. In his group, Sheldon has been documenting his journey to expand beyond his marine conservation work and into climate activism based on compassion and open heartedness.
Sheldon wrote and recorded “Soon To Be, Carbon Free” with his family. His wife sings the harmonies and his son produced the video. Sheldon describes the song as “a heart-based alarm bell, call for action, and message of hope” and hopes that people will sing along and share it widely.
He followed the song with a brief story of “how a long career in the environment field, a cancer diagnosis, and compassion for my friends, family and future generations inspired the recent decision to dedicate my remaining years to the fight against climate change. I have taken a Carbon-free Pledge to take immediate actions and am calling on others to also take this Pledge.”
On Friday morning, Sheldon issued a Call to Action, suggesting four types of actions that we can all take together to help solve the climate crisis.
For more information, Sheldon suggests the following:
First, an animated video. In about 10 minutes, it covers basic information about the causes of climate change, calculating your carbon footprint, and specific individual actions to reduce your carbon footprint. Some actions are specific to temperate climates, and some statistics are specific to British Columbia, in Canada. Four universities, working together through the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS), created this video.
Next, a clearly written article by Diego Arguedas Ortiz that highlights actions individuals can take in the context of the systemic, policy-driven changes that must occur before we can adequately address the climate crisis and related environmental problems. Individual action will not be enough without work by governments and corporations, but such action can engage others and catalyze systemic change. Arguedas Ortiz maintains a global perspective; his article is part of BBC Future.
Curating Hope features the personal stories of diverse people who protect nature. Together, we can envision a more sustainable future.